New commish Scott energized for Pac-10's challenges

March, 24, 2009
3/24/09
9:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Larry Scott might be the new Pac-10 commissioner because he tried -- and ultimately failed -- to revolutionize tennis.

Scott, chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), last year suggested that the men's circuit -- the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) -- should merge with the women's tour.

"I thought tennis would be stronger if we could reorganize the sport," he said.

That was a Sisyphean task, considering all the competing political bailiwicks involved, but his enthusiastic effort made an impression on folks in the room who also happened to be involved in the Pac-10's search for a commissioner to replace the retiring Tom Hansen.

When it was first suggested he consider the Pac-10 job, Scott admitted it felt pretty random. And it was just before the holidays and his head was swirling after his abortive effort to push through a tennis merger.

He met with Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby, head of the search committee, and suddenly found himself energized by the job description, its challenges and complexities and its often competing interests.

Sounded familiar but also new.

"It unlocked for me a personal connection and passion from my own experience as a student-athlete," said Scott, 44, who was an All-American tennis player at Harvard.

Scott is not a man of few words, but his message was clear when asked about his chief challenge when he officially starts on July 1: Does he believe the Pac-10's bowl arrangements and television contracts can be improved in terms of increasing revenue and exposure, particularly in football and basketball.

"I do," he said.

And so a marriage begins.

Scott, understandably, is short on specifics. But he did say that he's not necessarily interested in following the model of other BCS conferences.

"What the Big Ten has done is admirable and impressive; what the SEC has done is incredibly impressive," he said. "But I don't tend to approach things like, 'How can we do things the way other people have done them.' What attracts me about the Pac-10 is its own unique assets."

That's why he looks at the challenge of the Pacific Time Zone as a "potential advantage." That's why he ticks off Los Angeles and Silicon Valley and opportunities in digital media as areas where he's sees possibilities.

He said his first priority will be acting like a "sponge." He plans to visit every Pac-10 campus and talk to presidents and athletic directors and women's sports administrators.

He wants to hear what folks have to say before he begins another Sisyphean task.

"I'm not the sort of person who starts on day one with answers," he said. "I'm going to do a heck of a lot of listening."

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