Larry Scott: 'We could have expanded'
September, 21, 2011
By Ted Miller | ESPN.com
A day after conference expansion Armageddon was avoided with the Pac-12 taking a pass on Oklahoma and Texas, commissioner Larry Scott was in good cheer. And why not? Scott's conference still has the richest TV deal and is the most unified and stable in the nation.
"We could have expanded, but the deal didn't make any sense at the end of the day for us, especially given the position that we are in," Scott said. "There is a very high bar. It's hard to imagine very many scenarios for our conference to expand because the bar is so high."
And Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, were not able to clear that bar, a determination Scott made over the weekend, which he recommended to the Pac-12 presidents on Monday and Tuesday. Thus the statement from Scott's office Tuesday night that the conference would remain at 12 teams.
The decision to not expand was greeted favorably from all corners of the conference.
Said Washington State athletic director Bill Moos, "I like the way the conference is now and I'm pleased the decision was made to keep it at 12 members."
Said USC athletic director Pat Haden, "I don't think there is any rush for us to get to 16."
On Wednesday, a source told The Oklahoman that Oklahoma was using the Pac-12 for leverage to get some concessions from the Big 12:
“But frankly, we wanted the impression out there that we might go to the Pac-12 because that gave us some leverage,” the source said. “We were using that as leverage to say, ‘Hey, you want us to stay? Let's have some of these reforms.'”
That would seem to imply that Oklahoma wanted to make it public that it was negotiating in bad faith with the Pac-12, but Scott had no issue with this strategy.
"I have nothing but respect for the leadership of the University of Oklahoma," he said. "I don't want to contradict anything that they feel they need to say as part of the process they are in."
The Big 12 has yet to announce reforms.
While a second negotiation within just over a year to create a Pac-16 didn't end with an agreement, Scott said he doesn't feel that relationships have been damaged.
"I can only speak from my own experience and say not at all," he said. "Not in terms of the folks I've dealt with. I have had very enjoyable dealings with everyone I've dealt with."
Scott, Moos and Haden each said they don't expect expansion talk to end across the nation, including with the Pac-12.
"I don't see any of our schools wanting to leave," Moos said. "We've established the Pac-12 as a destination. I would guess there will be overtures down the road of institutions inquiring about membership."
But the Pac-12's condition for membership will be non-negotiable, Scott said: equal revenue sharing. Even if that means leaving money on the table.
Said Scott, "An opportunity was turned down that could have generated more money for the schools but potentially could have torn apart the fabric of the culture of the conference."
The big question, however, is the future: How long before expansion chatter again engulfs the conference? Is the Pac-12 merely playing a game of chicken with other programs?
Scott doesn't see it that way, but he also maintains -- as he has since the first wave of expansion in 2010 -- that consolidation isn't going away in big-time college football.
"I absolutely expect we will stay 12 teams for a long while," he said. "But after what I've seen happen in the last year, I don't think anyone could stick their neck out and make any definitive predictions."