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Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and the league’s CEO group have mutually agreed to terminate his contract one year ahead of schedule, the conference announced Wednesday night, ending his nearly 12-year tenure with the league which coincided with a series of dramatic changes across the national landscape of college sports.
Sports Business Journal was the first to report the news.
Scott’s contract, which paid $5.4 million during the 2018 calendar year, the most recent year available according to tax records, was set to expire in June 2022. The decision to terminate the contract comes as the Pac-12 is set to begin negotiations on the league’s next media-rights agreement.
“The intercollegiate athletics marketplace doesn’t remain static and now is a good time to bring in a new leader who will help us develop our go-forward strategy,” said University of Oregon President Michael Schill, the chair of the Pac-12 executive committee.
Scott’s run with the Pac-12 included the league’s expansion to 12 teams in 2011, a mammoth deal with ESPN and Fox, and the creation of a conference television network.
But his tenure more recently drew more criticism than praise, especially as the conference drifted out of contention for national championships in football and men’s basketball and the TV contract’s annual payout was dwarfed by deals cut by other Power Five leagues. The Pac-12 trailed the Big Ten by roughly $250 million and the SEC by roughly $190 million in total revenue during the 2019 fiscal year.
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Scott, 56, led the Pac-12 in negotiating the TV contract, a 12-year, $3 billion deal announced in May 2011 that took effect with the beginning of the 2012-13 school year and drastically increased the league’s annual revenue. Previously trailing even the now-defunct Big East in revenue, the deal pushed the Pac-12 to the head of the class in the NCAA.
Then known as the Pac-10, the league had total revenue of just under $112 million for the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to conferences’ tax records. That was last among what was then the big six conferences; the Big East was second-to-last with $119 million. The Big Ten led with $265 million.
In the 2013 fiscal year, the Pac-12’s total revenue rocketed from $176 million to $334 million, putting the conference atop what had by then become the Power Five.
Larry Scott watches the Pac-12 championship between the Oregon Ducks and the Southern California Trojans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
Parallel to that, the conference launched the Pac-12 Networks, at the time joining the Big Ten as the only leagues with their own TV footprint. Unlike the Big Ten Network, which was created as a shared venture with Fox, the Pac-12 Networks is owned and operated only by the conference and Pac-12 schools.
Also under Scott, the Pac-12 led all Power Five conferences in enacting several notable changes to athletes’ rights and welfare. Announced in 2014 and phased in over the next two years, the conference’s schools began providing medical coverage for injuries suffered while playing for four years after an athlete’s graduation or separation from the school, or until the athlete turns 26, whichever comes first.
A year later, the Pac-12 became the first Power Five league to give student-athletes a formal voice in conference governance, making them members of the four-person delegations that represent schools at the conference’s one-school, one-vote governance meetings. In 2018, the conference began what it calls the Pac-12 Concussion Coordinating Unit that involves the collection of data on head injuries for education and research purposes.
Scott was paid handsomely for all of this.
He was credited with nearly $1.9 million in total compensation in his first full calendar year as commissioner and had the benefit of a $1.8 million loan from the conference —to assist in Scott’s relocation to the Bay Area and housing — that has remained in place throughout his tenure, according to the conference’s federal tax records.
That made him the highest paid college sports commissioner and he has remained the highest paid in most years since. In 2011, he became the first college commissioner to exceed $3 million in total compensation. Scott moved past the $4 million mark in 2014 and past $5 million in 2017.
During the 2019 fiscal year, the conference payout to Pac-12 schools (about $32.2 million per school) was well below the distributions made by the SEC (nearly $45.3 million being distributed to the member schools that received full shares) and Big Ten (about $55.6 million to each of the league’s longest-standing members).
The league’s payout also trailed the Big 12 (from $38.2 million to $42 million) and was roughly on par with the ACC ($27.6 million to $34 million, plus $6.8 million to Notre Dame).
The Pac-12’s figure also does not take into account the equity value of the Pac-12 Networks, whose expenses help result in the conference passing less money to its member schools than the other conferences.
Most notably, Scott’s term as commissioner was panned for the league’s failure to place the Pac-12 Networks on DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite provider.
Hired in 2009 from the Women’s Tennis Association, where he had served as the chairman and CEO, Scott quickly rallied the Pac-12 through widespread expansion and nearly landed Texas and Oklahoma before the Longhorns decided to remain part of the Big 12. Instead, the league added Colorado and Utah.
Scott’s tenure coincided with a league-wide dry spell in football and men’s basketball. The Pac-12 hasn’t placed a team in the College Football Playoff since the 2016 season, when Washington lost to Alabama in the national semifinals, and hasn’t played for the national championship since Oregon lost to Ohio State in 2014. Only one Pac-12 team, Oregon in 2017, has reached the men’s Final Four since 2009.
Follow colleges reporters Paul Myerberg and Steve Berkowitz on Twitter: @PaulMyerberg@ByBerkowitz
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