Tom Hansen was commissioner of the Pac-10 conference for 26 years. By and large, he was a great leader. He saw 204 Pac-10 NCAA championships and played a major role in the creation of the BCS. But near the end of his tenure, things started to grow stale. The TV contract was one of the lowest paying ones in college football and Hansen refused to consider a championship playoff or adding teams to the conference.
Hansen retired in 2009 and Larry Scott, a former tennis player and former CEO of the Women's Tennis Association, took over.
Scott took the conference formally known as the Pacific-10 and transformed nearly every part of it. He took a 10 team conference, and made it 12. He took a stale, old, logo and created a cutting edge shield in an effort to create a brand. He took what was one of the worst TV contracts in all of FBS football and turned it into one of the highest paying, most high profile contracts in college history that includes, not just one, but 7 TV networks. Most importantly, he lead the conference through one of the most hectic and confusing times in NCAA history.
The timing of Scott's entrance was perfect. Less than a year after Scott took over, the first shot of Conference Realign-a-paloza was taken. The Big 10 announced it was considering adding another team to increase its conference footprint.
Since that moment approximately every team in FBS football has moved conferences at least twice, and all hell has broken loose.
Realign-a-paloza took its toll on everyone, but it really did its damage to conferences. The Big-12, once considered a major power, saw four major powers jump ship to three different conferences. The Big East had three teams leave and is in jeopardy of losing its BCS auto-bid. The biggest victim was the Western Athletic Conference who was almost completely pillaged. They lost 9 schools, two who hadn't even played a game in the conference. The WAC now only has 2 members left for the 2013 season and is all but assured to disappear before that season starts.
But under Larry Scott's leadership, the Pac-12 stayed float and, more than that, became more financially successful than ever before. Scott was able to evolve with the changing climate and do what was necessary to fulfill his vision.
Scott was the polar opposite of Hansen. Scott was able to roll with the punches and adapt to changes in the economy, while Hansen was largely stagnant.
Think about this got me wondering, where would this conference be if Hansen had never stepped down in 2009. What if Tom Hansen was at the helm during the hectic and crazy time know (by me) as Realign-a-paloza?
Q: Will Larry Scott someday be running the Pac-12? Pac-16?
A: I don't think. It certainly won't be soon. The reason a conference expands is to extend or enlarge its football for football television reasons. As we learned back in the 1990s, the only real attractive place we could go was Texas. Texas then had, and likely still does, about seven percent of the nation's television homes. The other institutions within out footprint would bring no gain. Nearby, including in the state of Utah, there aren't enough television homes to make those institutions attractive. The prospects just aren't there.
That was Tom Hansen in a Q&A with The Sporting News in 2009.
Less than a year later, Larry Scott was hard at work on building a Pac-16. When that fell apart, Scott settled for a Pac-12 and gave a membership to Utah, despite the point that "there aren't enough television homes to make those institutions attractive.
Tom Hansen would never had expanded his conference. As that article suggests, he would probably only expand for a school like Texas, Texas Tech or Texas A&M. And while it was rumored some, if not all, of those schools were all but packed and ready move out of the Big 12 for the west coast, that was because of pressure put on by Scott, a man who felt expansion was vital.
Hansen was also a proponent of tradition. That's why you saw basketball only being played on two nights of the week and a strict adherence to regional travel partners. It's likely any school taken would have needed a regional partner, something Colorado doesn't have (CSU aside). Add that to the fact he already ruled out schools in Utah, there aren't really many other choices.
With only 10 teams, Hansen would be in a weaker position than Scott was when 2010, 2011, and TV deal negotiations came around.
An interesting question now would be, because Hansen was resistant to expansion, the new way of life in the NCAA, would the Pac-10 have been in danger of losing programs?
In short? Probably not.
The Pac-10(12) is in a unique situation. I think it's unlikely that any team would leave based simply on it's geographic location. The only teams that would consider leaving are the major schools, let's use USC as an example. The only major conference in any position to poach a team is the Big-12. Even before Colorado and Nebraska left, if was clear that the conference was practically run by Texas. While that power struggle would have been entertaining to watch, USC, or any other school that might consider moving, would never put themselves in a position to be "number 2".
There is no question, the prior TV contract was terrible. Pacific Takes had a great look at the old TV contract.
- ABC/ESPN held the rights to 20 total games.
- FSN held the rights to 18 games
- Versus held the rights to seven games.
- Remaining games were regional contests.
Most of the ABC/ESPN games were broadcast on ABC, and almost all the contests were regional distributions to West Coast audiences.Only USC/Oregon and Notre Dame/Stanford in 2009 (three of the 20 ABC contests) were true national telecasts. No mirroring option (which occurred when ABC was distributing two games at the same time, and the other telecast was distributed on ESPN2) with ESPN2 was available.
The biggest problem of the deal was that the conference refused to let two Pac-12 games be televised at once. This meant that, because of broadcast windows (1 PM, 4:30 PM, and 7 PM), only 3 games could be seen on any given Saturday.
Hansen walks into the negotiation room with a weaker profile than Scott. With two less teams and two less TV markets, the deck is already stacked against Hansen.
I'm not going to assume Hansen would extend the same deal, largely because the TV market was ripe for a good deal. NBC Sports was looking to jump in, ESPN is always a player, and Fox Sports Network was not about to let their meal ticket away easily. Any of these were a possibility, and I'd be guessing if I were to give you any kind of estimated details. What I can tell you is that there wouldn't be nearly as much buzz around the conference with Hansen as there was under Scott, leading to what would likely be a cheaper deal without as much exposure.
Larry Scott went into negotiations with a firm idea of what he wanted out of a Pac-12 TV network. No one knows what that idea was entering negotiations, but I think it's safe to bet that it's pretty close to what he got.
One thing Hansen was looking at changing was getting a TV network.
We're actively looking at the marketplace, and we certainly have an eye on a network like the Big Ten formed that's very successful.Translation: They look like they're making a lot of money, we want that money too.
However, while it seemed like Hansen thought a TV network would be swell, he wasn't really dead set on the project.
We have three more years on the contract. If, however, we were to partner with them we could advance that and go to a new model.Translation: If they give us a deal like the one ESPN gave the SEC where they throw money at us to not make a network, we'll gladly fold up shop and go to the bank.
ESPN saw how well the Big 10 was doing with their network and decided they didn't like competition. When the SEC threatened to make a similar network, they basically wrote them a blank check and said, "Hey... How about we don't do that... Mkay..."
Scott had a vision for a network that would change the way sports on TV are thought about, so he was able to fight off ESPN, and others, and keep rights for his network. Hansen, who's vision wasn't as strong/non-existent, would have likely taken any offer to not start the network.
The conference likely would not have fallen apart had Larry Scott never arrived, but it would certainly be in a much worse position. Scott brings the fact that every football game is going to be on TV, a world-class network, a break-through TV contract, and two new exciting members. Hansen... well... We'd still have 10 teams and have to listen to games on the radio. But, hey! We'd still have those neatly organized Thursday, Saturday basketball games with neat little travel partners... That's cool...