Pac-12: Larry Scott

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott wasted no time weighing in Thursday after the NCAA Division I board of directors voted to allow the 65 schools from the so-called Power 5 conferences to make many of their own rules.

“We are delighted that after years of debate, a consensus has emerged that the time has come for a modern approach to governance that recognizes the need to give more flexibility to those conferences prepared to do more for student-athletes and, at the same time, preserves the collegiate model which works so well for the vast majority of Pac-12 student-athletes,” Scott said in a statement. “This is a great day for the 7,000 current student-athletes in the Pac-12 and for generations of future student-athletes who will benefit from the educational opportunities and life lessons made possible by college athletics.”

According to Scott, the Pac-12, ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 will work together on proposals that will be submitted to the NCAA this fall. Much of what they'll work toward was outlined in a 10-point plan outlined in a letter from Pac-12 university presidents to their counterparts in the other four conferences in May.

A statement from the Pac-12 says, "Those goals range from financial concerns of scholarship to injury prevention and health care, while insisting upon the preservation of the primacy of the universities’ educational mission." They will also consider providing scholarships that cover the total cost of attendance.

"This new model will allow our conference, which has always coupled academic and athletic excellence, to continue to maintain those high standards while adapting to the changing needs and expectations of our student-athletes and our universities," Washington State president Dr. Elson S. Floyd said in a statement. "We plan to address needs across the full range of sports, for both men and women, and reinforce something all of our university leaders emphasized earlier this year: education must come first.”

Here is the full release from the Pac-12.

 
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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby pursed his lips at college football on Monday and announced that "cheating pays." He warned his quaking audience of reporters that NCAA "enforcement is broken." His conference made a mistake by not including ominous organ music to punctuate his remarks.

A week before, SEC commissioner Mike Slive, after quoting Muhammad Ali, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, among others, sternly informed the media that the NCAA better provide the Big Five conferences autonomy so they can do what they want.

Or else.

ACC commish John Swofford went with snark. Hey, NCAA, he said, "The good ship Status Quo has sailed." If embattled NCAA president Mark Emmert were on stage, Swofford, the likely winner if the Big Five commissioners competed in a cage fight, would have given him a wedgie.

[+] EnlargeScott
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsPac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was all sunshine and smiles as he opened the Pac-12 media days Wednesday.
You can be sure when the Big Ten's maestro of dour, Jim Delany, takes the stage Monday, he will opt for a most vigorous finger shake at the NCAA after he references several important historical figures, so as not to yield any highfalutin ground to Slive and the SEC.

Ah, but out here on the lovely West Coast, we are more sunny. In contrast to his Grinch-like colleagues, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was positively ebullient as he addressed his gathered media throng. The Pac-12, he told us, is ... awesome. Pac-12 football? It's awesome, too. College football in general? While there are important challenges and changes ahead, it's, well, awesome!

"While I understand the concerns of my colleagues that have been expressed -- we've heard some doomsday and some threats over the last week," Scott said. "I am very confident and optimistic about where college sports is going and some of the recent reforms that we are seeing."

Curiously, the Big Five commissioners are pretty much on the same page and are almost certain to get what they want when the NCAA votes on granting them more autonomy in August. There is a general agreement among the Big Five on goals and how things will move forward. This contrast, then, was more about style and presentation. While other commissioners glowered, Scott and the Pac-12 went with the, to borrow a phrase from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "let's not bicker and argue about who killed who ... this should be a happy occasion," approach.

Of course, Scott has reasons to be cheerful as he lauded his conference in Hollywood, "the entertainment capital of the world," and celebrated its new neutral site conference championship game at sparkly Levi's Stadium in Silicon Valley, "the innovation capital of the world."

His conference welcomes back 10 starting quarterbacks and an average of 15 starters per team. Several teams are worthy of a preseason rankings, including national-title contenders Oregon and UCLA. Further, there is an impressive handful of Heisman Trophy contenders, led by Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota.

"We had a record nine teams qualify for bowl games last season, the most in our history," Scott said. "Put simply, our conference has never been stronger or deeper than it is today, and that's why I'm filled with so much optimism as we look forward to the upcoming season."

Scott's address, which featured 4,400 words according to the official transcription, didn't mention the Pac-12 Network's inability to strike a deal with DirectTV. Scott was all about the positive. That included celebrating 10 new national titles -- though none in revenue-producing sports -- and lauding the conference's academics and programs for student-athlete welfare, noting the conference would invest $3.5 million in research aimed at improving the health and safety of athletes.

Scott's jauntiness was not without motive, which was notable as he gently chided the media to "resist the temptation to oversimplify these issues" brought to the public eye by the Ed O'Bannon versus the NCAA trial. He and the other commissioners, after all, are trying to pacify an athletic revolt, a storming of the NCAA's Bastille, if you will. While excited about potential reforms to college sports, Scott also again expressed concern about "radically changing the collegiate model into a professional model."

"From my vantage point, college athletics is working exceedingly well," said Scott, who is the highest paid conference commissioner, hauling in over $3 million in 2011-12, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Did Scott mention that the Pac-12 won 31 nonconference games, most in conference history, and went 6-3 in bowl games? But of course he did.

Scott was followed to the podium by Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who immediately made the typically grumpy media feel right at home again.

Said Rodriguez, "I could be like every other coach in America and tell you how excited I am to be here, but that would be lying. Truth is, I'd rather still be on vacation or meeting with my coaches."

Rodriguez apparently didn't get the memo that everything, including Pac-12 media days, is awesome.

Pac-12 media days live: Day 1

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Pac-12 media days kick off in Los Angeles Wednesday. Keep this page open beginning at noon ET/9 a.m. PT as ESPN.com reporters bring you the latest from the day's proceedings. Scheduled to appear Wednesday are players and coaches from Arizona Wildcats, California Golden Bears, USC Trojans, Oregon Ducks, Washington State Cougars and Utah Utes, as well as commissioner Larry Scott.
 
We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see, because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year’s rankings here.

Up next: Cornerbacks. Considering the talent pool of quarterbacks in the Pac-12, each team’s secondary is going to be tested more and more this season. Teams are really (read: really, really, really) going to want to be good here in 2014.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon: All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is back, and considering how much opponents want to throw (though, who knows how much they will actually throw at him), he’s looking at what could be a really, really impressive final season. Through the spring, fellow senior Dior Mathis emerged as the other starter, though Troy Hill could make this an intriguing position battle to watch. Backing up these guys will be Chris Seisay, junior college transfer Dominique Harrison and Stephen Amoako. Elite talent and excellent depth make this one of the best position groups for the Ducks.

Stanford: The Cardinal have a new defensive backs coach in Duane Akina. In his 13 years with Texas he developed two Thorpe Award winners and 14 all-conference defensive backs, and he inherits a stocked pantry at Stanford. Alex Carter -- who sat out this spring -- and Wayne Lyons are both very, very good players who will anchor the secondary. Ronnie Harris will play the outside when Lyons shifts over to cover the slot.

UCLA: Last year at this time, UCLA’s cornerbacks were in the “we’ll see” category. Well, we saw. We liked. The Bruins return Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams and Anthony Jefferson -- they combined for 201 tackles, six interceptions and 11 pass breakups in 2013. With an offseason to gel as a unit, mature and condition, expect those numbers to grow. If need be, Randall Goforth could play some cornerback, and early enrollee Adarius Pickett and 2014 signee Jaleel Wadood (younger brother of Arizona State cornerback Rashad Wadood) could also contribute.

GOOD SHAPE

Oregon State: Steven Nelson has one of the cornerback spots locked down. He recorded 62 tackles, six interceptions and eight pass breakups last season. Opposite him, Larry Scott and Dashon Hunt are vying for the starting spot. Scott has more game experience but spent half of the spring on the sideline nursing a hamstring injury, giving Hunt more and more reps as the spring season went on. And considering these guys go up against quarterback Sean Mannion every day in practice, their learning curves are going to be expedited.

Washington: In Marcus Peters (55 tackles, five interceptions, 14 PBR in 2013) the Huskies have a very, very good cornerback on their hands. Opposing quarterbacks probably aren’t going to throw at him a ton, which brings the second starter into question. The starter opposite Peters will be the one put in bigger situations (at least until he proves himself as a lockdown cornerback. If he doesn’t, the passes will keep coming). Redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly and former Alabama transfer Travell Dixon had the first shot at the job in spring ball, and the Huskies will get four freshman cornerbacks in the fall to add to that group. It is a young group, but expect Peters -- who we think could be one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12 this season -- to pull along whoever plays the opposite spot.

Colorado: Senior Greg Henderson is the most experienced defensive player returning to the Buffs this season, and his history of steadily improving through his Colorado career is a good sign that this season will be his best. On the other side, Colorado is still going through a position battle with junior college transfer Ahkello Witherspoon (who had an interception three pass breakups in the spring game) and Kenneth Crawley (who played in 11 of 12 games last season for the Buffs). Chidobe Awuzie also returns, making cornerback one of Colorado's deepest positions.

WE’LL SEE

USC: A coaching change and a lot of questions about players made this a hard decision between Good Shape and We'll See. With the pure talent the Trojans have, it will be surprising if this is not a productive group, but that potential doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Kevon Seymour has one starting spot. He ended last season on a high note and played well in the spring, but has had a very up-and-down career. Can he sustain this recent production? We’ll see. Opposite Seymour, there is a battle brewing between Josh Shaw, Chris Hawkins and possibly Adoree' Jackson. This might be the group with the most upside and the most downside (basically, the most unknowns) of any cornerback corps in the conference.

Arizona: Earlier this spring, head coach Rich Rodriguez said he wasn’t as excited about his secondary’s depth as he wanted to be. Considering the Wildcats play with a five defensive back system, that is not great. But, they have Jonathan McKnight to anchor one side. He started all 13 games for the Wildcats last season and led the team with eight pass breakups. The other side is still a question mark as the team tries to replace Shaquille Richardson.

Utah: Expect to see a lot of nickel from the Utes as they prepare for life-after-Trevor-Reilly. Eric Rowe -- the team’s third-leading tackler in 2013 -- is back and has secured one of the starting spots. He is the fastest defensive back on the team (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) but the other starter remains a question. Utah likes sophomore Reginald Porter (10 tackles in 2013) and senior Davion Orphey (eight starts, 33 tackles in 2013) but they could see competition from incoming players like Travonne Hobbs and Casey Hughes.

Arizona State: ASU lost both cornerback starters in Osahon Irabor and Robert Nelson following the 2013 season. Nelson accounted for 57 tackles, six interceptions and six pass breakups, and Irabor tallied 54 tackles, three interceptions and five pass breakups. Their backups -- Lloyd Carrington and Rashad Wadood -- finished the spring atop the depth chart. Those two combined for just 32 tackles in 2013. There is always the argument that these two will step right into their mentors’ shoes as they have had time to learn, but the verdict is still out on how effective these two will be.

Washington State: The Cougars have taken major steps forward under head coach Mike Leach. At some point the cornerbacks need to follow suit (especially considering what they face in practice every single day). The Washington State secondary is in a major rebuilding period after losing cornerbacks Nolan Washington and Damante Horton. The only player with any kind of experience is Daquawn Brown, but beyond him it could be a lot of youth in the secondary.

Cal: The Bears have new defensive backs coach Greg Burns, who helped USC win national titles in 2003 and 2004 (in those two seasons the Trojans gave up just 239 passing yards per game) so there is certainly not a lack of talent and experience on the coaching end. But on the field, it’s a different matter. Cameron Walker -- who had to play safety last season because of injuries -- will return to cornerback and start alongside Stefan McClure. Both have experience at safety, which should help the defense be more dynamic, but again, that alone doesn’t necessarily propel the group into good or great shape this season.

Other position reviews:
The Pac-12 announced Sunday that it has created an 11 a.m. PT (2 p.m. ET) television window for this upcoming season in an effort to reduce the number of night games across the conference.

From the news release: "Pac-12 Networks will exclusively broadcast the games in this time slot in place of an evening window throughout the season. The number of 11 a.m. PT games will be determined as the season and television picks progress."

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Said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott: "... we believe fans -- both in our stadiums and in the television audience -- will benefit.”

Creating an 11 a.m. PT time slot obviously will reduce the number of night games, which many fans have complained about. This past season, more often than not, there were three conference games kicking off at 7 p.m. or later on Saturday. A few Saturdays, there were four.

The advantage with an 11 a.m. kickoff is fewer late games. The disadvantage is an unusually early start time.

That might negatively affect stadium attendance. It certainly will reduce the length of the pregame tailgating experience. And it will be interesting to see how the TV ratings are affected.

The Pac-12 Network might counter that it will be advantageous to show the, say, Utah-Arizona game at 11 a.m. in the future rather than at 7 p.m., when last Oct. 19 it competed with USC at Notre Dame, Washington State-Oregon and Oregon State at California. While SEC, Big Ten and ACC fans might keep their own games on at 2 p.m. ET instead of watching a Pac-12 contest, West Coast fans might be more likely to watch in the morning when there's no other regional game of note.

But what do you think? Are 11 a.m games good or bad for fans and/or Pac-12 business?

How to make the Pac-12 better

June, 3, 2014
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ESPN.com columnists Gene Wojciechowski, Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach provided you guys with 30 things -- 10 apiece -- that they'd like to change about college football.

They had some good ideas. They also gave us an idea: What are some things we'd like to change about the Pac-12?

Chantel Jennings, Kyle Bonagura and Ted Miller chime in with their thoughts.

Chantel Jennings

Alabama meets Oregon … finally: For the last few years everyone has wanted to see the Tide and the Ducks clash. The BCS era never brought it, so how fitting would it be to see a national title game (or at least a semifinal) featuring these two teams? C’mon, let’s settle a few scores in the inaugural College Football Playoff -- SEC vs. Pac-12, Nick Saban vs. Mark Helfrich. There are going to be complaints about the new system, but if it matches up Alabama and Oregon, it’ll have already done something the BCS was never able to do.

A Mike Leach weekly column: He’s certainly one of the most interesting quotes in all of college sports. He’ll give dating advice (someplace casual for dinner to begin, then maybe a drive-in movie theater) or discuss the difference between jeans and slacks at the drop of a hat. But, personally, I’d like to see more Leach-isms. I want a Dear Abby-esque Leach column: Dear Leach, I’m trying to decorate my house and can’t decide the best feng shui. … Dear Leach, I want to propose to my girlfriend but can’t decide how. … Dear Leach, What should I name my child? The possibilities here are endless. It’s not necessarily college-football specific, but I can’t be the only one who thinks this would make the season even more enjoyable.

No more lame nonconference games: I’m new to the Pac-12 and I deeply respect its ability to create tough conference schedules -- nine league games, I see you. But, what I don’t want to see is South Dakota-Oregon, Memphis-UCLA, Weber State-Arizona State or Portland State-Oregon State. Yes, I understand why these games exist, and trust me, it’s a big upgrade from the Big Ten (I’ve already recounted my first college football game as a student, Appalachian State-Michigan). But the football season only gives us 12 regular-season games. Is it too much to ask for all 12 to be great? Is it too much to ask for all of these games to be ones that we want to breakdown and analyze 10 months in advance? We talk about this sport year-round -- give us 12 games worth discussing.

Kyle Bonagura

Revamp the postseason awards: As things sit, the Pac-12 officially gives out the following postseason accolades: Offensive Player of the Year, Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman Offensive Player of the Year, Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, the Morris Trophy (voted on by offensive and defensive linemen) and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. That’s fine and good, but it’s straightforward and kind of boring. I’d favor an add-on by adopting the Big Ten’s model which names 10 players of the year at different positions -- all of whom are named after two former conference greats. Does this affect anything? Not even a little. But it’s a nice way to honor players of the past and present at the same time.

Address the officiating: One of the most common hashtags on Twitter during Saturdays in the fall is #Pac12refs. And it’s not for complimentary reasons. At its worst, it can imply complete ineptitude. More commonly, it’s the result of a blown call. Missed an obvious face mask penalty? #Pac12refs. Play clock didn’t reset? #Pac12refs. I haven't seen anything tangible that backs up the perception that the conference is officiated worse than the others, but if there is a way the conference can restore faith in its officials, that needs to happen.

Allow alcohol sales in stadiums: I understand the premise of promoting a better atmosphere by keeping alcohol out of games, but is it really going to cause an unmanageable wave of problems if $9 beers are sold inside the gates? If someone of age wants to have a couple beers during a football game, they should have that choice to make. As it is, some fans choose to drink heavier before the game -- knowing they can’t once they’re inside. Others plan accordingly -- stay after a game to see all the empty, smuggled-in bottles of alcohol that are left behind. This will happen eventually. It makes too much sense.

Ted Miller

Standardize media access: There needs to be a standardized way programs and professional media come together, and we're not talking about giving special access to reporters on the athletic department payroll. This actually is a not all that difficult to solve in a way that still allows coaches their coveted game-week secrecy. Spring and preseason practices should be opened to credentialed reporters. If a team wants to close access to fans, that's its call. When the season begins, game-week practices are closed after the first 20 minutes. As for injury information, the Pac-12 office should publish on Thursday afternoon an official report that conforms to the NFL standard. And if coaches outrageously fudge on it, they should get fined.

Get -- cough, cough -- "expenses" under control: Jon Wilner does a good job of breaking down Pac-12 revenues here. What he also gently touches on is Pac-12 expenses: $106 million. That, folks, is outrageous bloat. I've got a crisp $100 bill (it’s actually a 10-spot, but I'm trying to be in Pac-12 character) that says an itemized list of expenses would be embarrassing to the conference, particularly in this age of "student-athletes" wondering about their meager slice of the money pie. While the Larry Scott administration has done a great job making money, it has done a questionable job spending it. Pac-12 administration isn't supposed to be ritzy. It's supposed to be entirely about making and then funneling money back to the institutions it represents.

Video: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott

May, 16, 2014
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Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott talks about moving the Pac-12 title game to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
One of the major items of interest coming out of this week's Pac-12 meetings in Phoenix was the possibility of moving the Pac-12 championship game to a neutral site -- specifically the San Francisco 49ers' new home, Levi's Stadium, in Santa Clara, California.

A neutral site would take the pressure off the host institution to prepare for a major event in just six days. It would provide a showcase game in a major population area in a shiny new venue. It would have the potential to become a major event.

That said, it also could feature a lot of empty seats, as the Pac-12 is spread out more than, say, the SEC or Big 12, which use a neutral sites for their championship games. Empty seats do not look good on television.

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It also would go against the original justification for the home-host model: It provided an advantage to the team that had the best regular season in the conference. That not only seemed reasonable, and by extension, it also provided protection for the conference's No. 1 seed as it jockeyed for postseason position. That might be even more important with the advent of the College Football Playoff this fall.

Jon Wilner provides some cogent analysis here.

Pac-12 coaches and athletic directors seemed intrigued but also skeptical about moving the game to a neutral site, particularly for teams that had short-term visions of hosting the game.

Said USC athletic director Pat Haden: "I think the current model has actually worked pretty well, the home host. I know the CEOs are debating that and discussing that. I don't think any decision has been made. Quite honestly, at USC, we don't mind the home-host model because we think we've got a chance of hosting."

Still, a packed house at sparkling new Levi's Stadium on Dec. 5 would be a pretty compelling image to showcase the nation.

So what do you think?

Do you favor the home-host model or moving the Pac-12 title game to a neutral site?

PHOENIX -- The overriding message coming out of Pac-12 meetings is that major changes in college football governance are now inevitable, even if the details and long-term consequences of those changes remain unclear.

The Big Five conferences will meet in August and almost certainly obtain a new autonomy level within the NCAA structure. At that point, major rules changes, including those that significantly bolster the support and benefits provided to athletes, will start to be formulated. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott intimated that things could move fairly quickly thereafter, so his message to conference coaches and athletic directors was basically to buckle up.

"Quickly is a relative concept, but deadlines are good," Scott said. "I think if we get the autonomy that we've asked for, the commissioners will be setting out a very aggressive timetable to put proposals out ... I expect we'll have a very intensive process over the next four months -- September through December -- where practitioners from our campuses are working on different agendas, including those with a deadline of January, specific proposals that can be voted upon by the 65 schools [in the Big Five]."

So "quickly" might mean?

"The goal is to implement whatever changes we're going to implement for the 2015-16 year," Scott said.

Chief among those would be cost of attendance scholarships, which could vary significantly by team and conference. Scott, however, noted that doesn't create a massive change of direction and complication because the pure value of tuition scholarships also vary by team and conference.

What does need to be implemented to prevent any fudging is a clear formula that all 65 schools apply to calculate the new value of their cost of attendance scholarships.

"I don't think it will that big of a deal, but there will be issues to work through in terms of a common method of determining the full cost," Scott said.

There is a significant degree of consensus within the Big Five conferences for adopting the cost of attendance scholarships, and it appears there is unanimity within the Pac-12.

"These are a lot of things that are going to be costly for us but I think are necessary and in line with what I believe we should be doing for our student-athletes," said Washington State athletic director Bill Moos, echoing other conference ADs.

While Scott was unwilling to admit that the Northwestern football union challenge and Ed O'Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA were driving the oncoming changes, he did concede the legal challenges to the NCAA governance structure and the publicity surrounding them weren't too far from administrators' minds.

"Is it some of these external challenges driving it? I would say no. There's been a recognition for some time [about these issues]," Scott said. "But I'd say external pressures bring a helpful focus and helpful push to get these things done."

[+] EnlargeLevi's Stadium
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezLevi's Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, could be the new home of the Pac-12 championship game as well.
As for the other major item on the Pac-12 agenda, it was more based on the West Coast: The location of the 2014 Pac-12 championship game. There were earnest discussions over the two days about changing it from a game hosted by the conference's top team to a neutral site, specifically the San Francisco 49ers' new home, Levi's Stadium, in Santa Clara, California.

While the potential move was an intriguing idea, it also isn't a done deal.

"I think there was a lot of positive feeling about it," Scott said. "Some objected. There are some pros and cons."

Said Moos: "Personally, I think [Levi's Stadium] is the way to go."

Said USC athletic director Pat Haden: "I think the current model has actually worked pretty well, the home host. I know the CEOs are debating that and discussing that. I don't think any decision has been made. Quite honestly, at USC, we don't mind the home-host model because we think we've got a chance of hosting."

Shrugged Washington's Scott Woodward: "I'm ambivalent. I trust the league and what they want to do. I have no problem one way or the other."

If the title game is going to be played in the new 49ers stadium on Dec. 5, a decision almost certainly would be announced in June, when the Pac-12 presidents meet.

"If we are going to make the move, it wouldn't be later than that," Scott said.

So it appears that the summer, once a quiet time for college football news, will be anything but that this year.


PHOENIX -- As has been typical in recent years, there's a lot going on in college football, even in May. So there will be plenty to talk about when Pac-12 coaches and athletic directors get together with commissioner Larry Scott over the next two days at the posh Arizona Biltmore Hotel.

While there will be plenty of housecleaning issues -- such as reviews of officiating and the reduction of contact in practices -- Scott acknowledged there were two areas for which he expects the most curiosity and discussion: NCAA governance reform and the new College Football Playoff.

"We'll obviously spend a good amount of time on that," he said.

The simple answer before the meetings begin is that the Pac-12 is in favor of both, even if some conference coaches believe the SEC didn't act in good faith when it opted to give itself an annual advantage by continuing to play only eight conference games. The Pac-12 and Big 12 play nine, and the Big Ten will play nine in the future.

"The way the system works is every conference can make their own decision," Scott said.

[+] EnlargeLarry Scott
AP Photo/Jae C. HongPac-12 commissioner Larry Scott expects a lot of discussion about the future of the NCAA and the College Football Playoff at the league meetings this week.
Scott said he believes, however, that the emphasis on strength of schedule by the selection committee will end up favoring the Pac-12.

"What we've done, along with my other conference colleagues, is really significant -- we have stipulated that strength of schedule is going to be a critical component in sorting teams at the end of the season," he said. "No conference has stronger strength of schedule than we have."

Last year, the Pac-12 played the four toughest schedules in the country and eight of the top 13. Every conference team's schedule ranked among the nation's 42 toughest schedules. By way of comparison, Alabama's strength of schedule was ranked 47th and national champion Florida State's schedule was ranked 62nd.

The Pac-12 also figures to show a united front in favor of significant NCAA governance reform as it applies to the five major conferences and against the idea of athletes unionizing and being termed employees.

"We're absolutely supportive of having more flexibility with the five conferences to do more for student-athletes," Scott said. "At the same time, we think unionization is the wrong answer. We don't see student-athletes as employees. We think that would be a misguided take."

That position won't have to be sold to many athletic directors or coaches, but a few are curious about how the logistics will work out.

"I'm interested to find out where this meal thing is going and what it might mean and where we are with the stipend," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "I'm in that viewpoint that we need to really examine ways we can help these kids -- any way we can without getting into that world of paying salaries for players."

After these two major topics, the conference will review the Pac-12 title game, which will be played on Dec. 5 this year, another Friday night contest after the game was played on Saturday this past season in front of an (almost) packed house at Arizona State. Playing on Friday night is popular with no one -- other than Fox, which chose the date -- so that might inspire some grumbling. Two years ago at Stanford, the Friday night kickoff was an unmitigated disaster in terms of attendance.

While Scott said most are happy with the No. 1 seed hosting the game, there will be some give and take over potentially different formats.

"We feel good about our model, but we'll always look at options," he said. "We've got a lot of great NFL venues in the footprint. That's something we'll definitely look at as well."

One thing that won't get talked about, at least not in terms of advancing any positive agenda, is DirecTV, which continues to not broadcast the Pac-12 Network. Scott said there has been no advancement in the often contentious negotiations.

Meanwhile, more than a few athletic directors will be watching DirecTV's negotiations with the fledgling SEC Network.
Happy Friday. With Pac-12 spring practices ending this weekend, the offseason is officially upon us.

Of course, there is no offseason if you follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes!

James from Washington, D.C., writes: Is there anything Larry Scott can do to force other conferences to adopt a similar schedule as the Pac-12's? It looks like the conference is severely hurting itself with nine conference games and a title game.

0006shy from Los Angeles writes: Ted, Bill Hancock came out and said the selection committee doesn't care whether a team plays eight conference games instead of nine; they just care about overall strength of schedule. Doesn't that mean, once again, the SEC has won the debate before it even really started? It's the beginning of May and the selection committee has already decided that it's fine for the SEC to game the system. What are the other conferences supposed to do? I'd personally like to see them black-ball the SEC so that they're unable to schedule the "mandated" out-of-conference games.

Brian from Colorado writes: Regarding the SEC scheduling brouhaha, I think Pat Haden's advice is appropriate: "Get over it." The SEC will not change of its own accord, because its scheduling format has worked quite well in the BCS era. The future is bright for the SEC because the poll voting will likely not change that rewards SEC teams in the Top 25. The coming year's playoff committee, just like the BCS, will be highly influenced by the rankings -- that is a stark reality. Why would the SEC change? In all likelihood, they will have one guaranteed seed in the playoff and a realistic shot at two seeds -- remember Alabama vs. LSU in the national championship game a few years back? The only way the SEC will change is if they suffer the same risk the rest of the conferences face -- being snubbed by the committee. Until that happens, we can expect the status quo will continue.

[+] Enlarge2009 Alabama
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesBecause of the SEC's success nationally, they feel no real pressure to play a nine-game league schedule while others will.
Stephen from Smyrna, Ga., writes: As a Tennessee grad and longtime ticket holder, I couldn't agree more with you. In fact, if a poll were conducted among SEC fans, I dare say the vast majority would also agree that a nine-game conference schedule is a must. It is simply a matter of time before the SEC leadership recognizes this is in their best interest. In the meantime, I can only hope that schools such as mine will schedule the UCLAs and Oklahomas as opposed to the WSUs and Kansas' of the world.

Bobby from Greenville, S.C., writes: I think your article on SEC scheduling is very shortsighted on many points. At one point it is stated that it's not a debate about Big Ten vs. SEC. Well, to that point, I think that exactly proves why the SEC stays at eight games. A little biased here, being a UGA fan. But let's look at it closer. Last year, UGA played how many teams that were ranked in top 15 at the time they played them? Now let's see a Pac-12 or Big Ten team do the same! Now let's add another SEC game, why don't we? Because the SEC IS THE BEST CONFERENCE. Whether too heavy or not, that was still like five or six teams UGA played that were top-15 at the time they played. No thanks -- I'll pass on another league game. Also, stories are very slanted on the SEC not playing quality nonconference opponents. Again, UGA played top-10 Clemson and Georgia Tech last year. I also refuse to lose Auburn as a yearly opponent. So that debate needs to leave forever. Now Alabama or Florida nonconference, I cannot defend. Maybe that needs to be looked at more as far as the ADs are concerned. Thanks for listening.

Ted Miller: As you might guess, we got a lot of response to our discussion about the SEC opting to play only eight conference games instead of nine, as the Pac-12 and Big 12 do and the Big Ten plans to do.

All the fans from nine-game conferences were frustrated to some degree, though often over different issues. Some of the SEC respondents said, "I hear you." Others defended the SEC decision.

First off, if you want to go with the "SEC rules and everyone else stinks!" approach, go away. I understand this day and age that it's fun to troll and to purposely say something that is ridiculous just to get a rise out of people, but this actually is an issue that goes beyond conference quality.

Further, if you're going to say that SEC teams already face a tougher schedule than the Pac-12, know that what you are saying is factually inaccurate. You can still say it, of course. Free country. But you will be saying something that is wrong.

OK. Now that we've covered the fatuous stuff.

What this is really about is simple: The SEC thinks it can get away with making things easier on itself. That's not my opinion. That is a fact. Anyone stating otherwise is either ignorant or disingenuous.

The SEC is not going to change this approach unless it is forced to, or at some point in the future it believes this approach no longer gives it an advantage. Let me give you an example of how the College Football Playoff Selection Committee can make that happen.

[+] EnlargeStanford
David Madison/Getty ImagesStanford would have had a strong argument for inclusion in the playoffs if the new system were in place in 2013. But would the committee have snubbed Alabama to get them that berth?
Say the selection committee is meeting right now. It has selected three of four teams. The fourth selection will be either Alabama or Stanford. In an extraordinary coincidence, Alabama and Stanford each have played the exact same schedule as they did in 2013 with their opponents ending up exactly the same. Weird, huh?
Committee member 1: Alabama has great tradition and it passes the sight test. And it's an SEC team. But was it really? It played just three teams that are presently ranked and it's best win came over No. 16 LSU, which has lost three games. It missed South Carolina, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Georgia and Florida.

Committee member 2: I know. It's like Alabama was in the SEC in name only last year.

Committee member 3: And then there's Stanford. It went 5-2 against teams that are presently ranked, with its marquee win being over No. 10 Oregon. Yes, it lost two games, but all the metrics suggest it was more difficult to go 11-2 against Stanford's schedule than it was to go 11-1 against Alabama's. Heck, the Cardinal played six road games and Alabama only played four.

Committee member 1: By every objective measure, it should be Stanford. Boy, that eight-game conference schedule is something, isn't it? You get to say you play in the SEC, but by missing five conference teams every season, scheduling quirks sometimes almost make it like playing in the ACC.

Committee member 4: But we're going to get barbecued by all those SEC fans.

Committee member 1: Screw 'em. They need to call their ADs and demand a nine-game conference schedule as well as a more robust nonconference slate.

Committee member 2: Can we at this point all agree that the Pac-12 blog is awesome?

All together: Heck yeah!

This isn't about the quality of the SEC, which every clear-thinking person acknowledges as the best college football conference. It's about aspiring toward an equitable playing field so the selection committee can do its job well.

  • If the Big Five conferences all play a nine-game conference schedule, it provides a broader picture of a conference's actual pecking order. Why? More games against each other, duh.
  • If the Big Five conferences all play a nine-game conference schedule, it makes it easier to compare teams across the country because they played the same schedule: Nine conference games, three nonconference games.
  • If the Big Five conferences all play a nine-game conference schedule, it helps balance the number of home and road games between the conferences.
  • If the Big Five conferences all play a nine-game conference schedule, it's better for the fans because they get to see, say, Alabama and Georgia play more often.

Again, other than Machiavellian self-interest, there is no argument that justifies what the SEC is doing. None.

[And now my mailbag fills with "The Pac-12 stinks!" notes.]


Wat from Parts Unknown writes: Why does the ACC get a pass when discussing the eight-game league schedule? Especially since an ACC team is the defending champs and the overwhelming favorite to repeat? I hate to play this card, but at least getting through the SEC means playing multiple talented, well-coached teams. But as for FSU, they bested their strongest regular season foe 50-14. (That foe's only other regular-season game against a ranked team? 31-17). Even better: their second regular-season-best foe (whom they crushed 45-7) went 10-4 with no victories against the top 40 and a pair of losses to 7-6 teams. So FSU gets to the national title game by beating Clemson, Duke and a bunch of unranked teams (including Nevada, Bethune-Cookman and Idaho out of conference), and it is the SEC that has you concerned with schedule strength? And not only is the ACC consistently a weaker league, but they do not even have the annual out-of-conference power conference foe requirement that the SEC just adopted. So what prevents FSU (or if they slip up, Clemson; or for that matter, longtime pretender Virginia Tech) from staking an annual berth in the four-team playoff? Now my aim is not to ACC-bash. Instead, it is to point out that if the schedule strength issue is not going to be discussed equitably, then it amounts to no more than mere SEC envy.

Ted Miller: Part of it is the ACC hasn't yet decided on the issue. It meets May 13 in Amelia Island, Fla. Of course, the SEC decision gives the ACC a pass to stick with eight games, which I suspect it will do.

The other part of the reason is the SEC is presently the bell cow in college football. It's won seven of the last eight national titles, falling just short of making it eight in a row in January. When the SEC shakes the ice in its glass, the media erupts with reports and analysis for the next month.

Further, there's a general feeling that the ACC, unlike the SEC, won't get the benefit of the doubt. Fair or not, the perception is most years that an 11-1 SEC team will get the nod over an 11-1 team from any other conference. But, again in general, an 11-1 ACC team wouldn't get the nod over an 11-1 team from the Pac-12 or Big 12.

For example, if Oregon or Stanford had gone undefeated last year, I strongly suspect it would have been ranked ahead of Florida State in the BCS standings.


J Dub from Los Angeles writes: Can you please explain to my USC friends that their sanctions have very little, if anything at all, to do with UCLA's resurgence? They can't seem to understand that UCLA plays 12 teams not named USC every year.

Ted Miller: The biggest reason for UCLA's resurgence is Jim Mora, his outstanding coaching staff and QB Brett Hundley, which means Rick Neuheisel deserves at least a tip of the cap.

That said, NCAA sanctions against USC have benefited every Pac-12 team, and most prominently UCLA. With USC down 10 scholarships in each of the past three recruiting classes (plus or minus), that means more talent for everyone else, particularly that coveted Southern California talent.

I can even point to one guy specifically: D-lineman Kylie Fitts. He's at UCLA because USC didn't have space for him.

With USC able to sign a full recruiting class in 2015, it will be interesting going forward to watch these bitter rivals battle to rule LA.


Kai from Bear Territory writes: Team (or teams) you will have marked improvement over last year?

Ted Miller: I guarantee your Cal Bears at least double their 2013 win total. Heck, they might even triple it.

So, Cal would win this question.

I think Colorado will be better next season. I think Oregon State is interesting. Could be a nine-win team. I think Utah returns to the postseason if it starts the same quarterback the entire season.


Chester from Tempe writes: Dear Bert and Ernie, I'm a die-hard University of Arizona fan. I think the media has swooned too much over Todd Graham while not giving enough credit to RichRod. Shock! My reasoning: Graham is a motivator, salesman and leader. I don't see him as a good game coach when all is equal. When the talent was equal on the field, he lost to Notre Dame and twice to Stanford. (I'll argue UCLA was young and hurt and USC was being "Kiffined.") I believe he was handed a roster full of experienced and talented players who lacked discipline. He infused discipline and structure with some good juco players. Texas Tech was the ultimate decider for me; they needed that win to continue the "Happy Days" parade and bandwagon. Instead, Graham and his defense COULD NOT adjust. It was just weird. RichRod took over a dumpster fire of talent. Hindsight being 20-20, Stoops stopped recruiting in 2008-2009. Denker? 210-pound Mike LB's? Who needs defensive linemen? A combination of RichRod and his coaching staff's ability, coupled with Ka'Deem Carey, enabled them to win 16 games in two years. I think that is impressive. I guessed we would go five wins in 2012 and then six wins in 2013. I'll hang up and listen.

Ted Miller: So just because Todd Graham does things a good college coach does -- infusing discipline and structure while recruiting good players -- doesn't mean he's a good coach?

Or you're citing the the Holiday Bowl face-plant as a justification for saying Graham isn't "a good game coach?"

Piffle.

I do agree he inherited more talent that Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, which is part of the reason Graham is 2-0 against Rodriguez and has won 18 games compared to 16 for Rodriguez, though it's also worth noting that the Sun Devils' nonconference schedules have been far more taxing the past two years.

I know this won't satisfy you, Chester, but my -- and most objective observers' -- impression is both teams have good coaches, and we won't know who is better until... oh, let's just say 2017.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott joined "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" Friday to discuss the National Labor Relations Board's ruling that Northwestern's football players can unionize.

Scott and Cowherd touched on a variety of topics, including the potential negative effects on women's athletics, whether the athletes currently have enough time to devote to studying and redefining amateurism.

Listen to the full interview here, or read some of the highlights below:

[+] EnlargeLarry Scott
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsPac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, like other college athletics leaders, is concerned about unionization affecting smaller sports.
On the Northwestern ruling: "Really surprised that student-athletes would be in a NLRB director's view 'employees.' It so radically changes the relationship between student-athletes and their universities in a way that I don't see as positive.

On if all Pac-12 football programs make money: "Certainly. Football is very, very popular. Men's basketball is as well. There's no doubt about it. I think the same could probably be said for most of Division I from a football perspective, but those resources are being used to support lacrosse and women's volleyball and soccer and is completely tied to the educational mission."

On what the surplus money from football and men's basketball is used for: “The money that is generated is invested back in student-athletes and programs and enhancements for fans and making sure the programs are successful going forward. What would happen -- in my view -- if this unionization effort or these pay for play lawsuits are successful and you had to go down this path with football student-athletes and men's basketball student-athletes, what it would do is take all the resources that are available for these other sports away and that would be a big concern from my perspective. You think about women's sports and the advancements that have been made under Title IX. You think about the importance of college sports for the Olympic movement and how these kids are working just as hard as football players and basketball players and they really value the opportunity and the access it gives them to unbelievable educations. That would really be the real shame of all of this if it would up, in our conference for example, being able to support 7,000 student-athletes across 35 sports to some amount dramatically less."

On how Title IX would be affected: “It's hard to say exactly how Title IX would apply in an employee-employer relationship or if it would apply at all, but -- and again I don't want to paint an extreme example, when I don't really know where it'll go -- there's only two sports that people would consider successful with the revenues that it generates. Any unionization effort that I've ever seen in pro sports, it's not just about health care and work conditions, I mean they're going for a big slice of whatever's available and I just can't envision any scenario under which the unionization of athletes is going to benefit women's athletics at all. I don't know what Title IX will protect and won't protect under this new regime. What I do know is very few government policies have been as successful as Title IX has been in terms of creating access and opportunity for women and I am sure that women are going to suffer greatly in terms of access and opportunity if this unionization effort is successful.”

On if athletics prevents student-athletes from pursuing challenging majors: “That's not our experience, not my experience. We've got student-athletes graduating with chemistry, and engineering and architecture. I really don't subscribe to that … there's no question there's significant time demands and commitments if you want to be the best at anything that you do, but that's not just about football players and basketball players."

On if amateurism needs to be redefined: “I agree with that and I think that's where this needs to go. I think we need to redefine what amateurism is as part of an educational or collegiate model. I've been an advocate for reform within the NCAA system. There is room to do more for student-athletes and health -- stronger restrictions on time demand, covering the full cost of attendance. But what amateurism is, it shouldn't exceed what's the full cost of actually attending. They should not be paid compensation to play. They shouldn't be seen as pros. They're there as amateurs, they're there as students and athletics are a really important part of what they're doing, but they are students primarily and we absolutely should do more and I'm going to continue to push for us to do more. It just can't cross that line of starting to get paid a salary or negotiating through collective bargaining. That's a pro model, completely different.”

Video: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott

December, 7, 2013
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Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott talks about the season, Direct TV, officiating and the upcoming college Football playoff.

Mailbag: Did USC or Washington win?

December, 6, 2013
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Welcome to the mailbag, Pac-12 championship and coaching carousel edition.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes.

Elk from Los Angeles writes: Who's the bigger winner in the coaching carousel, Washington or USC?

Ted Miller: We have to declare a winner before Chris Petersen even holds his first news conference after replacing new USC coach Steve Sarkisian at Washington?

The only winner we can declare at this moment is the public relations and perception winner, and that is clearly Washington.

Petersen has long been a highly coveted candidate among AQ programs. Many sportswriters reacted with shock today when the news broke that after turning down some many suitors, Petersen was headed to Washington.

Fair to say the general consensus is that Petersen is a home run hire. Further, his track record suggests strongly he is not a climber. If he wins the Rose Bowl in 2017, he doesn't seem like the sort that would, say, jump to Texas.

As for Sarkisian to USC, the general reaction among sportswriters and USC fans was to be underwhelmed. Part of that was the belief that Trojans AD Pat Haden was going to make a home run hire that resonated nationwide -- as in Jon Gruden or Kevin Sumlin.

Sarkisian looked like a strong and legitimate USC candidate on Sept. 29, when Lane Kiffin was fired, but his Huskies immediately dropped three games in a row, and Huskies fans started to grumble.

Sark rebuilt Washington, but he never broke through in the Pac-12 North Division or the national rankings. Sarkisian is a good coach, but he's yet to distinguish himself with a landmark season. Petersen has with two BCS bowl victories and a sparkling 92-12 record.

So at this point, Washington is the clear winner.

Yet keep in mind that being the public relations and perception winner before either has coached a game or even recruited a player will be the least important victory either posts during their respective tenures.

It's all about what comes next, starting with their 2014 recruiting classes.


Flannel Beaver from Tacoma, Wash., writes: I know this has been discussed, but seriously... when will the Pac-12 go to an eight-game conference schedule? I am all for holding the our moral superiority over all other conferences. Do you think the new Playoff Selection Committee will take that into account? Do bowls consider that when looking at options? Do pollsters REALLY consider it? Then why do we continue to do it? How can I as a fan change Larry Scott's stance on this?

Ted Miller: Scott is a Machiavellian, "It's All About the Benjamins" sort. He'd go with eight games if the Pac-12 athletic directors were for it.

A nine-game conference schedule is favored by Pac-12 ADs for two reasons: 1. It means you only have to schedule three nonconference games, therefore less work; 2. An extra Pac-12 game tends to guarantee more ticket sales than a nonconference patsy, something that SEC schools don't worry about.

Once the conference expanded to 12 teams from 10, the nine-game schedule lost the symmetry that provided a true conference champion. But it was retained for the above reasons, even though it damages the conference's place in the national rankings.

The good news is most folk recognize the seriousness of this issue going forward into the four-team College Football Playoff. There will be pressure to level the playing field and have all the major conferences play nine-game schedules, as the Big 12 and Pac-12 currently do.

But if that doesn't happen, then it becomes the CFP selection committee's move. The first time a one-loss SEC team misses out to a one-loss Pac-12/Big 12 team, and the selection committee explains itself by saying, "The SEC choose to play a softer schedule than the Pac-12/Big 12, so that was the final measure that eliminated their team," then you'll see some changing.

In fact, it's too bad we don't have the playoff this year because it would be an interesting process. To me, the four-team playoff would be best served (based on today's records) by having Florida State, Ohio State, the SEC champ and the Pac-12 champ.

Yes, that would mean leaving out Alabama, which I still believe is the best team.

But if that happened because Stanford's/Arizona State's schedules were dramatically more difficult, you can bet that the SEC would man-up out of self interest.


Craig from Omaha writes: Lifelong Huskers fan here but enjoy watching Pac-12 football. … My question to you is why is it that the Pac-12 does not play its conference championship game at a neutral site like every other major conference? Is it due to loyal fan bases that are willing to travel? Do they feel there are not adequate facilities to hold such an event? I would have to think of all the venues in Pac-12 country, there would be some place that would fit the bill?

Ted Miller: The biggest problem with a neutral venue for the Pac-12 title game is the Pac-12 is much more spread out than the SEC, ACC and Big Ten. With just a week to make travel plans, it would be extremely expensive for fans to book flights. In the SEC, just about every fan base is within driving distance to Atlanta, and that's also mostly true in the Big Ten for Indianapolis and the ACC for Charlotte, N.C, though expansion has changed things a bit in that regard. For Texas A&M, it would be a 12-hour haul to drive to Atlanta.

That said, future change isn't off the table. Since the conference expanded, more than a few folks have tossed around the idea of playing the game in Las Vegas, which the Pac-12 blog would be all for, though there's not yet an appropriate stadium to play host. Another option would be rotating the game between major cities.

Truth is, the Pac-12 championship game has done fairly well at home sites -- the game Saturday at Arizona State is pretty close to a sellout. Last year's lackluster fan showing at Stanford was mostly because of torrential rain and a kickoff during Friday rush hour.

And there's something to be said for rewarding the No. 1 team with an advantage.


Scott from Homewood, Calif., writes: I think you are making the same mistake as other media members about the Stanford roster. Although the depth chart lists several players as seniors, they are in eligibility only redshirt juniors because they list by academic class instead of eligibility. Guys like Tarpley, Henry Anderson, Parry, Reynolds, Fleming, Yankey are listed on the depth chart as seniors but all have a year left. Although Yankey likely will leave early, the others will most likely be back or have the option to come back. In reality, only four offensive starters are seniors and only three defensive starters are seniors. Jon Wilner has posted twice about this issue and I just wanted to spread the word.

Ted Miller: I understand your point, but I use a depth chart that has both years.

The players Stanford loses on offense: OG David Yankey, C Khalil Wilkes, OG Kevin Danser, RB Tyler Gaffney, RB Anthony Wilkerson and FB Ryan Hewitt.

Players Stanford loses on defense: OLB Trent Murphy, LB Shayne Skov, DE Ben Gardner and DE Josh Mauro.

The Cardinal will again be in the thick of the Pac-12 North Division race in 2014, without question. But those are some big hits to the starting lineup.


Brian from Bend, Ore., writes: Any reflection on why Marcus Mariota has been completely overlooked for QB awards and the Heisman? It seems that no one west of the Mississippi is allowed to lose games. He still has really good stats, was No. 1 in Total QBR until the Arizona game and is morally superior to any other NCAA player. Is this not the embodiment of the Heisman?

Ted Miller: The bottom line is Oregon lost two of its final four games and Mariota didn't play well at Stanford, the Ducks' marquee national game of the season.

Further, when you remove Jameis Winston's off-field issues, as was done this week, the Florida State QB is a clear No. 1 at the position, while Johnny Manziel has been a force of nature for two seasons, and AJ McCarron has led one of the most successful runs in college football history.

I'm not saying I agree with all of that as a reason to demote Mariota. But that's what happened from a national perspective.

3-point stance: Larry Scott's climb

November, 5, 2013
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1. It comes as no surprise that the Pac-12 presidents offered commissioner Larry Scott a new contract through the end of the 2017-18 academic year. All Scott has done is taken a perfectly respectable conference and turned it into a financial powerhouse, and the results have shown up on the football field. But I would be gobsmacked if Scott stayed for the next four-plus years. Scott strikes me as a climber always looking for another mountain. And I don’t mean that in a negative way.

2. You can measure Baylor’s rise to national significance in a lot of different ways, from being the nation’s most prolific offense (70 points, anyone) to No. 6 to being a 14-point favorite over long-time tormentor No. 10 Oklahoma. In the 17 years of the Big 12, the Bears have won once, the 45-38 victory when RG3 threw a touchdown pass with :08 to play. But the biggest measure may be that on Thursday night, the tarps that regularly cover portions of 50,000-seat Floyd Casey Stadium are being removed.

3. No. 21 UCF could all but clinch the American at home Saturday by defeating Houston. The Knights and the Cougars are the last two unbeaten teams in league play. With a victory, UCF would have head-to-head victories over the two one-loss teams (No. 20 Louisville is the other) in the league with the best record. Of UCF’s remaining four opponents, only Rutgers (5-3) has a winning record. The American hasn’t been ready for Blake Bortles, announced Monday as a Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist. We may find out if America is.

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