It's been a dream come true. So far.
Nuss and I have been fairly outspoken in our crticism of Tom Hansen. Remember, during his tenure, the Pac-10 has failed to market itself nationally, been a key defender of the Bowl Championship Series and a key detractor when it comes to any sort of sweeping change to our television package.
But now, in comes Larry Scott. He's progressive. Experienced. He's earned rave reviews for what he's done with the WTA tour. If you read the quotes in Nuss' earlier post, you almost wonder why he'd leave the WTA at all - it seemed practically everyone admires him, and praises his leadership skills. He's someone who appears to have the uncanny ability to get the job done without pushing people over or forcing the issue. He brought about equal pay for women in the Grand Slams. One thing's for sure - this is at least an incredible victory for Pac-10 women's athletics.
So - we have the leader we want in place.
Now, we find out once and for all if Tom Hansen was bluffing.
Remember, it was Hansen who always hid behind the time-honored "the University Presidents want it, and I do their bidding," argument. Problem is, we didn't hear enough from the University presidents to determine whether it was Hansen carrying out the protocols of the conference or the other way around. When Pete Carroll speaks out against the BCS, do you really think the USC President is going to go against him? Do you really think Jim Sterk and Elson Floyd, who have brought WSU firmly into the 21st century, are going to squash progressive ideas from their new commissioner? Do you think University Presidents really have the time to worry about every single minutiae having to do with college sports? I don't think so. But this is truly the test of whether or not Scott can be successful.
Scott has made a point of saying that he will listen first - listen to the Presidents, the athletic directors, and his other constituents. From there, he'll have a decision to make: carry out the status quo, or push things forward with the Pac-10. My guess is the latter will prevail in most cases. The most pressing issue has to do with the BCS. If the conference leadership wants to keep it, we'll find out fairly soon where he stands. The good news, however, is that it would be logical for Scott to have free range with television deals and scheduling issues that have hurt the conference of late. Those are things the Presidents simply don't have time to deal with.
The other issue is that what all of us wants is different. Some want to keep the round robin in football and basketball, others want to ditch it in favor of expansion. Some want more local games, some want more national exposure. Scott's real challenge is to do the greatest good for the Pac-10 without upsetting its most loyal fans.
What do I want to see from the new Commish? Here's my wish list:
1. Support the plus-one system for now, and a playoff down the road
Even support of a plus-one system in College football would be a huge step forward for this conference. And, in terms of the playoff system, every BCS conference we can get on board in favor of it is a win. I understand the conference's love of the Rose Bowl game. Of course - my argument is that you can still have the Rose Bowl and a playoff system. If you do it right.
2. Consider conference expansion
Note that I didn't say "do it". This is a complex issue, and one that needs a lot of consideration. You need to figure out where to expand, who to include, what to do with the schedule, etc., etc. That's why I want the commissioner to not be afraid to say "we're looking into it", and not just the flat out "no" that Tom Hansen always gave. The Mountain West is lobbying for a BCS bowl-game spot. Even the WAC has expanded in hopes of broadening its audience. If the Pac-10 isn't careful - and I know this may sound crazy - the other conferences in the west might start to gain on us.
In my opinion, it's better to do what the ACC, Big XII and others have done - poach the big schools from the litte guys. Before those "big schools" start eating away at your conference revenue. And I know that a 12 team conference means less money spread around, but it also means a much greater chance of getting two teams into the BCS, or 6-7 into March Madness. Considering the amount of the BCS payout, it's better to do everything you can to get two teams in.
3. Reel in the officiating
It's hard to say the Pac-10's officials are worse than any other conference, because I don't follow any other conference as close (although, I can say with accuracy that the WCC goes overboard on calling offensive fouls). What we do know is that fans of outside schools have beef with the reffing, and if you don't believe me ask any Crimson-clad person in Oklahoma.
Still, officials are human, and they make mistakes. I think even the angriest fan understands that. My problem is that the Pac-10 has consistently said nothing when officiating breaks down. Or a "sorry, but we can't do anything about it" approach. You can do something about it, though. I'm not talking about firing everyone, I'm talking about coming out and saying "here's how we can prevent this next time". If that means being progressive in enacting instant replay rules, reigning in certain egotistical officials, then great. I, for one, don't hate the refs. I hate when nothing is done to protect the refs from making the same mistake twice.
4. Get the Pac-10 tournament out of L.A. A.S.A.P.
Hansen has continually defended his stance against a rotating Pac-10 tournament, stating that for TV purposes it is best to keep it in L.A. This is one instance where I care way more about fairness than TV dollars. I love rotating conference tournaments - the WCC does it and they have far less money to throw around.
I've said it before, but here's how I'd rotate the Pac-10 tournament: Seattle, Phoenix, Bay Area, Las Vegas, Portland, Los Angeles. Five of the cities are close to their two major fanbases, and have NBA-caliber arenas. The other one is Las Vegas. Tell me why this wouldn't work. I'm tired of looking at a third-full Staples Center and wondering what would happen if the tournament could be in the Northwest for once. I haven't even addressed the obvious advantage for USC and UCLA.
5. Improve the conference's television deals
This doesn't necessarily mean ditching FSN. There are some great things about FSN, most notably the number of games they are able to carry. Instead of just running straight to ESPN , we need to achieve some more specific goals, regardless of the network.
5a. Get every football game televised for every team
Difficult? Maybe. But I think it's possible, espeically if the Pac-10 can swing a deal to get two games broadcast nationally. The rest can be picked up FSN's regional networks, ESPN, Versus, whoever. I would just love to have the guarantee that WSU could be on TV every game. Recruits would too.
5b. Get more games on ESPN
I know, I said we shouldn't run straight for the entertainment and sports programming network. However, we don't have to go exclusive with ESPN (not happening anyway, because they will be in bed with the SEC for years to come), and we need a presence on the Worldwide Leader. It just makes sense from an exposure standpoint. ESPN promotes what they show, and if they don't show us, they won't promote us. Ask the NHL.
5c. Find a national network willing to promote the Pac-10, not just USC
This will be tough, but ever since the Pac-10 got the TV deal with ABC, it's been USC reaping the benefits and hardly anyone else. And that makes sense given the L.A. media market, but we need to find a network that's OK with carrying Cal/Oregon in addition. Easier said than done. And if all else fails...
5d. Consider creating a Pac-10 network
This would be ambitious, but if no other outlet can make things happen for us, this seems like a logical route. The Big XII network may not be a roaring success, but in some ways it doesn't have to be right now - they still get a large number of games on the ESPN networks and their viewership will grow when they finally start learning how to deal with Cable and Sattelite outfits.