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Emails reveal Larry Scott’s crisis response in wake of Pac-12 officiating blunder

The documents were acquired by The Mercury News reporter Jon Wilner.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Conference Championship-Utah vs Washington Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Freedom of Information Act pays off for all of us once again, as The Mercury News’ intrepid Jon Wilner took a break from hating on the Cougs to pass along a series of emails sent by Scott and various Pac-12 leaders in the wake of the replay officiating scandal earlier this year.

It’s basically a big dump of emails and snippets of emails grouped into various narrative categories, and you should go read the story if you’re interested in this kind of stuff. But the most interesting parts — at least to me — are these:

  1. Scott changed his tune pretty quickly on the Woodie Dixon/replay situation. Before the Yahoo! story broke — but when he knew it was coming — Scott called the whole thing a “misperception” in a message to the Pac-12 CEO group. Within 24 hours of the story publishing, Scott acknowledged to the group in a separate email that it was a good deal more than just “misperception,” writing, “The in-depth reporting makes it clear that we made a mistake in our procedures that we need to acknowledge and address immediately.”
  2. Scott continues to lean on the accomplishments of the conference’s non-revenue sports as the basis for trusting him.
  3. At least one Pac-12 CEO — and probably more, since this message was sent to the entire group — still loves Scott.

“We have no interest in letting others define us,” wrote Oregon State president Ed Ray. “We do have so much to be proud of … I have seen no adverse impact of sportswriter nastiness among supporters of the university. We should talk about seizing the communications initiative in the sports world. I think some of your concern is probably due to having to deal continually with the characters who populate sports media.”

Scott’s response: “Thanks for your note and sharing with the group. We’ve got some CEOs new to this environment with angry sports blogger mob, and I’m sure some are more sensitive and reactionary to it. So your not (sic) was very helpful indeed.”

Yes, the belief is that this is about “sportswriter nastiness” and the “angry sports blogger mob.” Could these people possibly be more unaware?

Fans are fed up with various negative issues afflicting the conference, including officiating, poor postseason performance in the revenue generating sports, the college basketball scandal, network distribution, etc., and that message is being rightly amplified by media, most recently in this four-part report by The Oregonian. But one of the big takeaways for me in these emails is that there’s a subtle hint of a divide between Scott and Ray (and likely others) who think it’s unreasonable that writers and fans would connect the dots on those issues, and other members of the group who might be wavering on Scott — note his wording in the response to Ray about “CEOs new to this environment.”

WSU’s cameo from university president Kirk Schulz seems to fall in the latter category.

“I do think that as Presidents we could do more to assist with the sports media around these types of situations,” he wrote. “I would like us to discuss ways all of us can support the conference with our local media sports reporters at our November meeting. In particular, I thought that (Arizona president Robert Robbins’) interview recently about Arizona athletics and the Pac 12 was particularly effective – some additional voices of support in times of media scrutiny can at show conference unity.”

Sounds like an appropriately measured response in support of the conference without cheering for Scott, specifically. But if you were hoping for some on-the-record rebuke of Scott from the guys who hold the power over his job, sadly, you won’t find it in there.