Larry Scott will be tone deaf until the end, whenever it comes.
Maybe sooner than he thought.
But he’ll also be rich, so there’s that.
The Pac-12 commissioner recently announced a reduced budget for the conference in the coming year, ordered up by the league’s CEOs, its presidents and chancellors — a nine percent cut in expenses and also salary reductions for Pac-12 staffers making at least $100,000 in annual salary.
That, of course, included Scott himself, who is the highest paid commissioner in all of college sports, making $5.3 million annually. He revealed that he would be getting a 12-percent trim.
Not enough, apparently, to buoy the spirits of Pac-12 staffers suffering under his poor leadership. They wanted a buzz-cut for Scott.
“You do the math,” one league employee told John Canzano, the Oregonian’s longtime columnist. “People are trying to survive in [San Francisco]. Simply put, [Scott] should have cut his salary in half and saved the staff from cuts that crush staffers.”
Would Scott sacrifice in a major way for the benefit of those who work for him, while he still would make millions, but not as many millions?
Canzano reported that the commissioner hasn’t even made progress in paying back a $1.9 million loan he received from the Pac-12 when he was hired in 2009, money he used to buy a sweet home in a swanky Bay Area neighborhood.
His salary, his unpaid loan, his accommodations in a league headquarters in downtown San Francisco, one of the priciest stretches of real estate anywhere, and even his attitude might edge toward justifiable, or at least tolerable, if it weren’t for the fact that Scott has overseen the slide of a league that sees itself at the top of the college P5 heap, but that, in reality, knows now that it’s near the bottom.
His leadership, or lack of it, is illustrated darn near perfectly in his taking that reduction in pay all the way down to $4.7 million, for the greater good, naturally, when others on staff are trying to get by on what only seems to be healthy compensation, given the expense of where they must live to work at the league offices, space for which the league pays an annual rent of $8.1 million. That’s far and away highest headquarters rent of any Power 5 conference.
Meanwhile, Pac-12 institutions receive far less money each year in media deals. The effort to establish the Pac-12 networks — and to get widespread distribution for them — has been, to this point, nothing short of a mess. League schools pocket up to $20 million less per institution per year than members of the top P5 conferences — The Big Ten and the SEC. And that deficit has been evidenced in competitive results — in the sports that people actually care about.
It’s been revealed in football by way of sagging recruiting, in wins and losses, in invitations to the college football playoff, in retaining and paying coaches, in perception and prestige. One high-ranking Pac-12 school administrator — privately — criticized and then painfully ridiculed what has happened to the league under Scott’s guidance.
The COVID-19 crisis only makes it worse.
In the last week, discussion within the league has emerged, Canzano wrote, regarding the dumping of Scott. His contract runs into the summer of 2022, but some consider that to be a bit on the late side.
“There’s serious talk amongst the Pac-12 CEO Group to end his contract ahead of the expiration date to have a fighting chance to save the [Pac-12] Networks,” said one high-ranking administrator.
Already, those networks have taken hits — eight percent of their staff was laid off three months ago, those who survived took pay cuts, and now, they’re getting more salary reductions.
In the email announcing the most recent cuts to staffers, Scott indicated that the moves would “provide us with the maximum flexibility to manage the crisis before us and the best opportunity to emerge as strong as possible.”
That’s what almost every business leader who makes bad decisions that cost people jobs and salary says after the damage has been done. Scott obviously cannot be blamed for the coronavirus and its devastating effects. But the Pac-12′s weakened condition before facing this challenge is on him. It happened on his watch.
Utah and its fans will always appreciate Scott guiding the Utes into the Pac-12 on that same watch. But, overall, his steering has not benefited the league as a whole.
Taking that into account now, by his own action in offering to cut his own salary more substantially would have been, could have been, a savvy, more aware move on Scott’s part. On the other hand, if he knows he’s all but gone, sooner or later, maybe he’s grabbing — preserving — what he can for himself while he can.
Straight to the end.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.