It's great to be Pac-10 commissioner...and a Florida Gator fan
On July 1, Larry Scott replaced Tom Hansen as commissioner of the Pacific 10 Conference and spent his first official day on the job in... Florida,
Did we mention Scott is a big fan of the FloridaGators, defending college football national champions?
Scott came by his Southeastern Conference allegiance honestly, having lived in St. Petersburg while serving as head of the Women's Tennis Assn.
"It was very much Gator territory," Scott confessed Wednesday to a small gathering of reporters at a hotel near LAX on the eve of the annual Pac-10 football media day.
Scott was in Florida on July 1 tying up loose ends after a return trip from Wimbledon, where he had closed out obligations with the WTA.
He didn't start unpacking boxes at Pac-10 headquarters in Walnut Creek, Ca., until July 6, but he's now turned all his attention to Ducks, Beavers, Bears and Bruins. On Wednesday night, Scott hosted a dinner for Pac-10 football coaches in his effort to accelerate what figures to be a steep learning curve. Scott played tennis at Harvard but has no other experience in the NCAA's convoluted culture.
Scott gives his first state-of-the-conference news conference at Thursday's football media day.Don't expect any big proclamations. The league's future bowl ties are pretty much secured for the next cycle, while the conference's television deals run through 2012.
Scott is doing a lot of listening these days, with goals that include "unlocking" the potential earning power of the league.
He called "staggering" the recent $3-billion, 15-year deal the SEC deal negotiated with CBS and ESPN. Scott said the SEC contract "raised the bar for everyone."
Scott also reaffirmed the conference's marriage to the controversial Bowl Championship Series. When he first got the job, Scott said he was open to exploring all options, including a playoff, which some misconstrued as a change of course for a league adamantly opposed to expanding the postseason.
Scott on Wednesday galvanized that point, saying there was "no ambiguity about the Pac-10's BCS position right now." Sorry all you playoff advocates.
Scott said the creation of a Pac-10 Network was possible, but not imminent. He wants to expand the conference's marketing sphere of influence to the Pacific Rim of Asia. While many have told him about a perceived "East-coast bias" against the Pac-10, Scott will start selling what he's calling a "West Coast Advantage."
And there's every reason to think the Pac-10's basketball tournament will remain at Staples Center after that contract expires in 2012.
Scott said the Pac-10, "screams opportunity."
For now, though, Scott is just trying to learn all the Pac-10 fight songs. He will spend the next few weeks visiting every conference campus.
The next time he might see Florida is Jan. 7 in the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl.
Photo: A Gator huddle on November 8, 2008. Photo credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press.