And Scott isn't close to being finished. One item that made negotiations slightly sticky with Fox and ESPN was the Pac-12's insistence that it sometimes retain first crack at which games to broadcast—on its own, brand-new TV network, which will be operational a year from now.
HOW DO THE CHANGES BROUGHT BY THE NEW COMMISH translate to the product on the field? Immediately and permanently. The divisional setup created problems. Each team will play a nine-game conference schedule. You play the five teams in your division—that's a no-brainer. But the cross-divisional matchups were tougher to iron out. Because every Pac-12 school recruits heavily in the Los Angeles basin, games against USC at the Coliseum and UCLA at the Rose Bowl are at a premium.
Playing in-state rivals USC and UCLA every other year was not enough, protested Stanford and Cal. So an exception was carved out, at the expense of the Northwest schools. Unlike the other four teams in their division, the Bears and the Cardinal will play the Trojans and the Bruins every year, guaranteeing them an annual trip to L.A. That special treatment ensures that the Ducks, Beavers, Huskies and Cougars will only make two trips to recruiting-rich Los Angeles every four years. Meanwhile as divisionmates with USC and UCLA, newcomers Colorado and Utah will get an annual game in either the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl. This imbalance has some at the Northwest schools grumbling.
Scott also had to navigate how to divvy up the TV windfall. Under the old system part of the pot was distributed among all schools. The rest was disbursed based on how many times each school appeared on TV. This resulted in the L.A. teams always getting a bigger slice of the pie. Under the new TV deal members will share equally in television revenues after agreed-upon phase-ins for Utah and Colorado.
The L.A.-based teams remain the marquee programs even as the balance of power in the conference has swung. USC is on probation; UCLA would have to improve to be mediocre. Meanwhile Arizona and Arizona State may be poised to break out, and much of the good news in the Pac-12 comes from up north. Oregon has 15 starters returning to a team that came within a field goal of the national title; powerful Stanford will be led by Heisman front-runner Andrew Luck; Washington is surging; Oregon State is always dangerous under canny coach Mike Riley.
All told, the arrows are pointing in the right direction for the Pac-12, whose leadership, finally, is as dynamic and creative as the product it puts on the field.