Larry Scott's first year as Pacific 10 Conference commissioner was anything but boring. At the first game he attended, Oregon tailback LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise State player on national television. He has since presided over the NCAA probation of his league's flagship football program, USC, and expanded the conference to 12 schools after a brazen bid to create a "Pac-16" failed.
A former Harvard tennis player, Scott came to the Pac-10 from the Women's Tennis Assn., where he served as chairman and chief executive. The Times' national college football columnist Chris Dufresne recently interviewed Scott, on the eve of his second football season, at conference headquarters in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Here are the highlights of that conversation:
Is there a word to describe your first year as commissioner?
I would say "whirlwind."
How much does USC going on probation hurt the league?
I actually think there's a sense of relief down at USC, and here, at least there's an end in sight.... I think people are ready to kind of deal with it, take their medicine, whatever it winds up ultimately being, and move on. USC will always be USC.
Did you have a problem with the school hiring Lane Kiffin even as the NCAA was investigating possible violations at his former school?
I haven't been consulted on any coaching searches.... I have a lot of confidence in the leadership of USC.
The league also hired Creative Artists Agency to handle marketing strategies. Will CAA help in the next television contract and putting together a Pac-12 Network?
They've got a media advisory group really expert on advertising and TV negotiations. And they've got some folks that have particular expertise in devising business plans for networks.... That's something we're seriously looking at and exploring.
What happened to the presidents of the league? They have traditionally been conservative.
I don't think it's anything I did to change the mentality of the presidents. The fact they recruited someone like myself from outside the industry was indicative of a new mind-set.
How much did the Big Ten Network and Southeastern Conference's multibillion-dollar deal with ESPN and CBS change the mind-set?
I think that essentially was the wake-up call.... They developed a pretty bold ambition of what they wanted the conference to be. And that's what they presented to me when I was being recruited.
So a lot of this had to do with financial strain on schools?
Absolutely. There's tremendous pressure financially. I don't think what's happening in the Pac-10 is very different from what's going on across the country... I think the presidents said to themselves the Pac-10 deserves to still be a leader.... But we're going to need to raise our revenue.
I think you caught everyone by surprise in June by making the bold play for half the schools in the Big 12. Was that totally out of the blue?
I didn't have a game plan coming in as to what exactly we were going to do, but I knew the topics that would have to be addressed in the first 18 months.... The first six months I really didn't make any changes whatsoever. I did do a lot of listening. ... Once I started making changes things seemed to happen quickly.
You added Utah and Colorado to the conference, but there's a perception out there that Texas made you think they wanted to join but were only working for a better deal in the Big 12, which it got. Response?
I think that's an easy way to tie ribbon around this whole thing... This thing would have not gotten to where it would have gotten, Nebraska leaving the Big 12, Colorado coming to us, if the goal was to leverage a better deal. The goal of Texas wasn't to shrink the Big 12 to 10, I can assure you that.
So why did Texas back out?
The only people who can give you that answer are the folks at Texas.... I think the support among the political appointees, the oversight for these schools, was probably too hot over the divide between Texas and Texas A&M. I think they were told the plug needed to be pulled on this.