For now, Larry Scott chills out previously combustible Pac-12

PHOENIX -- In advance of the Pac-12 meetings this week, it seemed as though commissioner Larry Scott needed to put out several fires, some of which he started himself. There seemed to many observers that a divide was developing within the conference over his leadership, both in terms of administrative issues and personal feelings.

Scott apparently wielded a fairly effective fire extinguisher as his gathering with conference athletic directors concluded Thursday, though it's certainly possible that a recent embarrassing public tempest that involved Scott calling out UCLA AD Dan Guerrero over his misrepresenting the conference's wishes with a potential satellite-camp ban merely led to a resolution to keep the conference's dirty laundry to itself.

Scott called the meetings "probably as positive as any since I've been here," and there were no dissenters saying otherwise, including from sometime Scott critics.

"We went over a lot of different items," Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said. "It was a very positive meeting. We walked away from the meeting encouraged. It was a very good day today."

The most recent problem was Scott's very public calling-out of Guerrero for his vote to ban satellite camps, which ran counter to the conference’s official position, held by a 11-0 majority, with only UCLA in abstention. Guerrero said Wednesday that he "was ready to move on," and Scott expressed regret for how things played out in the media.

"In hindsight, I could have made the point without allowing any question about Dan's integrity," Scott said.

That doesn't mean Scott apologized. He said he felt it was necessary to make clear the Pac-12's position that it was against banning the camps, even though Guerrero had cast a vote -- incorrectly -- for a ban, which was passed but then was subsequently overturned, in large part because of the Pac-12's public efforts.

"We weren't going to roll over," Scott said. "I felt a tremendous obligation to fight hard for the position our coaches and schools wanted, which was to avoid a ban and to get it reconsidered, which wasn't easy. ... There was no way to clarify Pac-12 position that we were for satellite camps when we voted against satellite camps."

With that emotional issue put on ice, Scott and the ADs mostly focused on a more pressing concern -- increasing revenues in order to keep up with the other Power 5 conferences, most notably the surging Big Ten and SEC.

Scott said 15 to 20 percent of the discussions were spent on talking about collaborative initiatives for schools to increase revenues, from ticket sales to multimedia rights to donations. He noted that the Pac-12 payout of between $23-25 million per school accounted for roughly 25 to 33 percent of a school's athletic revenue.

"Those are the items that make up the largest contribution to athletic-department budgets," Scott said.

He also pointed out the uncomfortable fact that the SEC and Big Ten have built-in advantages that are difficult to overcome.

"They've got larger fan bases and, as 14-team conferences, cover more states," Scott said. "It's a very competitive, challenging environment. I left today feeling positive we were very aligned with ADs in focusing on what we need to do in the conference office in working with them to stay competitive long-term."

More revenue is the quickest way to turn an athletic director's frown upside down.

Another frustration with no clear solution is the high number of Pac-12 night games, particularly games that kick off at 10:30 p.m. ET. Scott pointed out that the reason the conference inked a $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox was because of its willingness to play at night. If the Pac-12 wanted to push the issue, its only recourse would be to give money back.

Scott said, however, that there were ongoing efforts to nibble at the issue "around the edges."

"I think we will see an incremental reduction," he said.

Finally, Scott addressed issues with the Pac-12 Network, which have lagged behind the revenue production of the Big Ten and SEC Networks, in large part due to distribution problems, most notably the lack of a contract with DirecTV. Among the three conference networks, the Pac-12 is the only conference to fully own and operate its network without a broadcast partner.

"We like our model," Scott said. "Up to to this point, there has been no more attractive option."

The apparent endgame of the 2016 Pac-12 meetings, then, didn't produce any concrete solutions to ongoing challenges the conference faces. It did appear, however, to reduce a previously growing divide.

As Scott concluded his discussion of the imbroglio with Guerrero ("If Dan and I are cool, then we're cool," he said. "I don't get any sense there's a lingering issue.") so might the most important takeaway from the week of meetings be.

Where there were once potential fires, things are now cool. Or at least cooler.