The Pac-10 announced today that Larry Scott, CEO and chairman of the Women's Tennis Association, will be its successor to Tom Hansen, and you can count me among those who are cautiously optimistic.
All other aspects of his resume aside -- and it is a considerable resume -- Scott has one major thing going for him before he ever officially assumes the post on July 1: As far as I can tell, he's got absolutely no connection whatsoever to Hansen.
Since they've settled for Hansen's poor leadership in maximizing the conference's exposure and revenue for the past 26 years, I was afraid the conference presidents would just promote someone from the inner circle to fill the spot. Kudos to them for going for the home run hire and bringing in someone who ostensibly ought to have some fresh ideas -- and some clout.
In fact, it seems the presidents purposed to look for someone with a new perspective. Stanford president John Hennessy, who led the executive committee that made the hire, said that Scott "was clearly the most qualified and innovative leader for the Pac-10," which is a great sign. Scott's track record clearly supports such a claim. This is a guy who made women's tennis -- women's tennis -- a mainstream sport in the United States, one that you can argue is more popular than it's male counterpart. I consider that no small feat.
Scott reinforced this in an interview with The New York Times:
"They were looking for a different kind of leader from, let’s say, other conferences typical in this position," Scott said. "They see this as a turning point for the Pac-10 and are looking for a new approach to promoting and branding the conferences as well as television and sponsorships."
Hansen was famous for blaming the conference's lack of modernization on the presidents' wishes, painting himself as a dutiful minion. This hire seems to run counter to that claim, and I hope the presidents are serious about giving Scott the latitiude to be innovative with the conference's revenue sports, because this is a great time for it.
There are minor bowl contracts up next year, and the TV contract with FSN expires in the next three years. Will Scott be able to talk other, higher profile bowls into going for Pac-10 teams? Will he be able to increase the conference's national profile with better media deals?
In that Times article, Scott says he's up for the job.
"I’ve picked up on the sense that some people feel that the Pac-10 may not be boxing at their appropriate weight, so to speak," Scott said of the league’s television deal. "One of the skill sets that I bring is dealing with television for 15 years and dealing with all of the major networks over that time."
We're mindful of the fact that being a conference commissioner is a much bigger job than catering to the fans of revenue sports, but let's be honest -- that's how commissioners are measured. If Scott can get guys like Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon to care about Serena and Venus Williams, I like his chances to get the rest of the country to finally care about the Pac-10.