NCF Nation: Danette Leighton

Want to unscientifically measure the difference between one year of Larry Scott vs. 26 years of Tom Hansen atop the Pac-10?

Do this: Google "Pac-1o commissioner Larry Scott" then do "Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen."

Yeah: Stunning. Nearly two million hits vs. 105,000.

While some traditionalists -- and the Pac-10 still has plenty of those -- might not believe that's necessarily a good thing, what Scott has done in one year is dramatic: He's made the conference big news. Even when his grand plan for a "Pac-16" fell apart due to a Texas two-step, Scott's bold behind-the-scenes maneuvering was the lead story of an usually busy college football summer.

When the machinations finally ended, the conference added two teams, Colorado and Utah, and everyone now waits to see how Scott will parlay that into a media deal that keeps the conference financially competitive with the SEC, Big Ten and ACC.

But that answer won't come until 2011. The present "next big thing" is this week: A bi-coastal showcase of Pac-10 football coaches and players. And new, aggressive Pac-10 marketing.

Danette Leighton, an Arizona alum and the Pac-10's new -- and first -- chief marketing officer, uses terms like "sizzle" when she talks about how the conference plans to present itself to the media and public.

"It's about presenting Larry Scott's vision," she said.

That vision means elevating the Pac-10's national profile and waging war on the "East Coast bias" -- real or mythical -- by reaching out in order to overcome instead of merely complaining about perceived slights. That vision means putting the Pac-10 in front of a national audience as much as possible, even if much of that audience supports other conferences and is inclined to boo an interloper from the West.

Cheering or booing -- that means folks are paying attention. And those eyeballs, Scott believes, will translate to increased revenue and a better position in the college football pecking order.

As for the new stuff this week ... You can see the new Pac-10 website here when it opens at 2 p.m. PT on Tuesday. And you can pose questions to the coaches and players available during Thursday's media day on the new Pac-10 Twitter page.

The Pac-10 blog will be tagging along to all three destinations (image: Pac-10 blog walking up to Pac-10 coaches, "Hey, are you guys playing cards?"). That means lots of stories and videos over the next few days. So you may want to take a few days off.

Here's the media days itinerary:

Tuesday (New York)

5 p.m. ET: News conference at the Manhattan W Hotel featuring all 10 coaches and the unveiling of new Pac-10 logo and football trailer. Pac-10 QBs will visit Times Square -- where the Pac-10 football video will be playing on the Jumbotron -- and the Empire State Building.
6 p.m.: Private cocktail reception at W's "Whiskey Blue" with TV executives, corporate sponsors, former players and other VIPs.
8 p.m.: Coaches eat dinner with ESPN's "GameDay" crew. Coach spouses will see Broadway musical, "Promises, Promises."

Wednesday (New York, ESPN)

Morning: Coaches will ring the opening bell at NASDAQ and then conduct East Coast media interviews.
11 a.m.: Bus to ESPN offices in Bristol, Conn., where players and coaches will do interviews on all ESPN platforms.
5 p.m.: Charter flight from New York to Los Angeles; check in Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel.

Thursday (at Rose Bowl, all times PT)

9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Coach and player group interview session (field)
9:30 a.m. - Introduction and format - Dave Hirsch
9:35 a.m. - Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott
9:45 a.m. - Paul Wulff & DE Kevin Kooyman, Washington State
10:00 a.m. - Dennis Erickson & PK Thomas Weber, Arizona State
10:15 a.m. - Rick Neuheisel & FS Rahim Moore, UCLA
10:30 a.m. - Steve Sarkisian & LB Mason Foster, Washington
10:45 a.m. - Jeff Tedford & LB Mike Mohamed, California
11:00 a.m. - BREAK
11:15 a.m. - Lane Kiffin & QB Matt Barkley, USC
11:30 a.m. - Jim Harbaugh & FB/LB Owen Marecic, Stanford
11:45 a.m. - Mike Riley & RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
12 noon - Mike Stoops & QB Nick Foles, Arizona
12:15 p.m. - Chip Kelly & DT Brandon Bair, Oregon
12:30 p.m. - Pac-10 video presentation

12:30-2:30: One-on-one coach/player interviews during luncheon.

5:30 p.m.: Reception at the Fox Network Studios: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman host Pac-10 presentation.
PHOENIX -- After the coaches and athletic directors met with commissioner Larry Scott on Wednesday at the Pac-10 meetings, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh revealed some major news.

"The really interesting thing from Stanford's point of view we're going to be on national television for five straight weeks, starting with UCLA [on Sept. 11]," he said. "I don't know if that's ever been the case in the history of Stanford football."

What? Did you expect some expansion headlines?

Sure, it was a lead topic. Sure, everyone is interested. But even if the coaches were filled in on some grand plan -- which they weren't -- they were told to hush when approached by nosy reporters.

"Not really at liberty to talk about what those [expansion scenarios] are," Harbaugh said.

For the the most part, conference coaches seem, to borrow a term from Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, "neutral" on expansion. There also seems to be a general feeling of confidence that Scott and the administrators and consultants looking into the matter ultimately will make the right decision. The right decision, of course, meaning one that makes every conference program richer.

"I like our conference. I like the natural rivalries we have. I like the fact we play everybody in our conference and a true champion comes out of it," Sarkisian said. "But if there is value in expansion, if Larry Scott and his team -- who do a great job -- if they deem it's the best thing for our conference, then I'm all for it. If we do it, I know it will be the right thing to do because of the time and effort they're putting into this. And if we don't, I'll have faith that was the right thing to do. Either way they go with it, that's why they hired him and they'll make a good decision."

Said Harbaugh: "Is [expansion] a good thing? What we got right now is a good thing. It's set up really well. But our conference is going to look at all possible options. You've got to be open because you don't know what the landscape of college football will look like in two to five years. I think the Pac-10 is being proactive."

What about a conference title game, with or without expansion?

"I think that would be great, would be great for our conference," Sarkisian said. "I know for our kids, they love playing football. So if they give them another chance to play a game, they'll play it. I'm sure that's how it would be for the other nine programs in our conference. Just from an exposure standpoint for our conference, I think it would be a good thing."

Scott has significantly restructured the conference office since he took over last summer, including hiring deputy commissioner/chief operating officer Kevin Weiberg (the former Big 12 commissioner), chief financial officer Ron McQuate, chief marketing officer Danette Leighton and senior associate commissioner/SWA Gloria Nevarez.

Scott also has retained retained the Creative Artists Agency, the global marketing and entertainment firm, to explore expansion possibilities, according to a report from Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News.

With all the new faces and agenda items, the meeting, in large part, functioned as a "getting to know you" session.

There was other business, of course. Administrators talked about improving conference marketing. Moreover, the upcoming TV and media negotiations are critical as the Pac-10 tries to catch up to the SEC and Big Ten.

Football travel rosters are expanding!

Sure, expansion is front-and-center at the meetings, but that doesn't mean it's the coaches are obsessing.

"From our perspective, we're obsessing about the 12-game schedule we've got coming this fall and recruiting," Sarkisian said. "[Expansion] talk is really out of our hands."

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