Q&A with Larry Scott (cont.)
Q: You had a lot of arbitrary power with the WTA. It will be much less now. Won't you have to work with 10 institutions before you can make a move?
Scott: I guess it all depends upon your perspective. I had about 200 independent contractor tennis players that I worked for. It sometimes felt like herding cats. And then 55 individual tournament promoters around the world, tennis federations -- people often refer to tennis as alphabet soup, so it would be hard to stagger me with complexity of a political environment.
Kidding aside ... I'm used to being a servant leader and recognize I work for in this case 10 institutions, 10 presidents with broad objectives. I think the leadership challenge is trying to develop a vision that's consistent with the wishes of the group that takes it forward. I've been very impressed with the discussions I've had with the presidents. There is a common purpose and vision.
Q: Tom (Hansen) in the last few months was working on the Pac-10's bowl contracts. What was your role in that and where do they stand?
Scott: I had no role in it leading up to me starting (the job). Tom was very good to invite me into various meetings to listen and get my bearings and get orientated on some of the issues. Those discussions are very far along and I think over the coming months arrangements are going to be finalized.
Q: It's going to be mostly the same bowl lineup?
Scott: I can't really predict yet because it seems like there will be some sort of shuffling that perhaps goes on in the next month or two. But I think we've got a very solid bowl lineup, obviously led by the Rose Bowl, which is your anchor bowl. But I think for the most part, I'd expect it to be pretty similar to what we've had.
Q: How about with the Alamo Bowl? Is there still an ongoing discussion?
Scott: They've expressed interest but I think it would be too early to predict whether they'll be part of our lineup or not.
Q: In the big picture, do you see the Pac-10 always being the Pac-10? What about expansion?
Scott: It is not a topic that has come up in any serious way -- certainly not since July 1st. I do know that the conference has looked at it from time to time. Not seriously very recently. From the conversations I've had with the leadership of the conference, I know it's a complex issue.
First and foremost, the presidents look at it from an academic perspective. ... There's a certain prestige and status about the conference that's of utmost importance to our presidents and chancellors. Then, from a sporting perspective, a commercial perspective, there's all sorts of considerations, TV and all of that. I don't imagine this is something I will lead us to discuss before our next rounds of television discussions. I think that's the earliest I could imagine the topic being ripe for discussion.
Q: Do you have a feeling, or is there some sort of understanding about how much longer the USC investigations will last? Months? Years? Is there a role for the conference to play in this?
Scott: There is an ongoing investigation both at the conference level as well as the NCAA level. Beyond that I can't comment. The conference policy is not to comment on an ongoing investigation. I don't want to predict how long it might or might not last, but it is ongoing.
Q: How would you characterize your previous experience with college football and basketball?
Scott: Just a fan.
Q: Season ticketholder?
Scott: No, never a season ticketholder. I graduated from Harvard University, where sports was a different focus, and commercially a different league. But I certainly caught a big bug and got caught up in all the passion in the last six years living in St. Petersburg, Fla., which is very much Gator territory [and where college football] is so very much a part of the whole culture. ... The last six years gave me an appreciation for the tribal nature of college sports.
I see that as a great thing to tap into. I come from a sport where you have greater marketing challenges. I mean, people are fans and they're interested [in women's tennis], but the passion is not quite as deep. So one thing I'm really excited about is bringing the skill set and the track record I've got in marketing a sport like tennis into an environment where it is so deep and it is so passionate and I see opportunities to tap into.
Q: Where do you think the Pac-10 stands in college football?
Scott: The one thing that surprised me, I guess, is I had this perception from what I heard and read before I took the job that the Pac-10 was not seen amongst the No. 1 or 2 football conferences. I guess as I've gotten here and seen some of the stats I've been surprised in a positive way. The perception seems to be off with the reality, from what I can tell.
What I mean by that is since 2000, the better part of this decade, our conference has a winning record against every single BCS conference. And we're tied with the SEC for the best bowl record. So in terms of interconference play, where we stack up against each other, no one's got a better record than the Pac-10. That's certainly different than the perception I've had when I've been reading the media and listening to people talk.
The other thing that's surprised me is ... just how tough a (nonconference) schedule the Pac-10's got. I see a lot of dialogue about some of the 'laydown' teams the other guys have. ... That's the disconnect for me. The Pac-10 doesn't appear to be getting the credit it deserves for its schedule on one hand, and its track record and pedigree on the other. These are things that, as a newcomer, aren't being reflected in the national debate.
That's part of what I'm going to focus on and try to dissect and understand, because there's a disconnect. The Pac-10 is a hell of a lot stronger [than the perception].
George Schroeder covers college football for the Eugene Register Guard and is the president of the FWAA. Readers can e-mail him here.
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