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July 23, 2014

Scott, Pac-12 focus on big picture

MORE: Pac-12 Media Days

LOS ANGELES -- While fellow conference commissioners sound the alarm about the state of intercollegiate athletics, while fans fret over the protracted standoff with DirecTV over the Pac-12 Network, and while reporters on the Paramount Studios backlot scrambled to find space to work and a reliable internet connection, Larry Scott is taking the long view.

Below are the results of the preseason poll of media members that cover the Pac-12 conference. Voters ordered each team in the North and South, with the top team in each division getting six points, and the team expected to finish last getting one point.

The Oregon Ducks were picked as Pac-12 Champion. The Pac-12 Championship will be played Friday, Dec. 5, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

1 232
2 192
3 142
4 125
5 87
6 41
1 231
2 181
3 163
4 119
5 82
6 43
Pac-12 Media Days Roundup
The Pac-12 commissioner expressed optimism about almost every daunting issue presented to him Wednesday afternoon, the first day of the conference's newly-expanded football showcase, whether it was the introduction of autonomy for the so-called "Power 5" conferences, keeping the balance between sports that generate billions of dollars of revenue and those that operate at a loss or cutting a deal with the nation's largest satellite television provider.

"All the focus is on what is wrong or the challenges and threats, but it is easy to lose sight of all that is going well from my vantage point with 7,000 student-athletes in this conference," Scott said. "Generally the model is working well. I don't think you design a system around a very small minority.

"I think there is a lot more going right than is going wrong."

However, it might take a while, Scott cautioned.

Getting the Pac-12 Network on DirecTV will almost certainly depend on the proposed merger with AT&T, as Scott said an agreement with the current management will not be settled any time soon and certainly not by the start of the upcoming college football season. Instead, Scott is hoping that federal regulators will sign off on AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV to end the stalemate, though that could take years. AT&T has a sponsorship agreement with the conference and its member schools, and its U-verse television service already carries the Pac-12 Network.

"I'm much more hopeful that when AT&T buys DirecTV that we'll have different kinds of discussions and outcomes," Scott said.

That won't soothe fans being bombarded with ads for the ESPN-backed SEC Network, while indications abound DirecTV will carry it by the time Texas A&M and South Carolina face off to open the season on Aug. 28.

The Pac-12 could have made a similar agreement when it launched its national and regional networks in 2012, giving a percentage of ownership to ESPN or Fox so they could use their power to force a deal with distributors. Scott persuaded school presidents that complete ownership would produce even greater financial returns, though it might take more time to establish nationwide distribution.

"Short term, it would have been much more expeditious," Scott said. "My goal is what is going to make the Pac-12 the best and strongest conference 10 years from now and not just three years from now.

"I'm convinced people will look back and ask how the Pac-12 did that, get full distribution and still own its own network and be master of its own destiny."

That money could be used to fund full cost of attendance, one of several proposals that has stressed the already-significant divide between the Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference and the other conferences that make up the Division 1 of the NCAA.

Scott expects a bid to grant more legislative autonomy to the "Power 5" to be passed next month, with those conferences likely to propose changes as early as January. Barring an unexpected breakdown, new rules that would expand the value of scholarships could be in place for the 2015 season. Other ideas could include better long-term health insurance and reducing the time commitments dedicated to athletics.

"It still has to be approved by the NCAA board, but there has been a lot of healthy compromise among the members of the NCAA," Scott said. "I think we have got the flexibility to make important changes to the way student-athletes are treated on our campuses, specifically the flexibility to provide more financial support."

Big 12 commissioner and former Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby predicted on Monday that the model will change dramatically, including drastic reductions in or outright elimination of Olympic sports.

Scott disagreed with such dire pronouncements.

"I'd like to think maybe we'll sit here years from now and say I was nave, but I like to think there won't be dramatic change to the model. It will be incremental and positive change, like we are about to do with autonomy for the five conferences," Scott said.

What the view looks like years from now, how much it has changed will weigh heavily on how Scott's dramatic transformation of the conference is assessed. But at a salary of $3 million per year, Scott can afford to wait.

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