Larry Scott has done a lot of things right since he became commissioner of the Pac-10. He's had a few flubs, too. But hey, can't fault the man for trying. At least he thinks the Pac-10 brand is worth something and tries to get the proper market capitalization for it.
But this latest piece of news is both puzzling and alarming.
The realignment part was fine. You were never going to please everybody. The revenue distribution scheme is OK, though it's a bit of a head scratcher why UCLA deserves any extra cash - considering the Bruins have done nothing for the conference since 1998.
The real atrocity, however, is the decision to play the conference championship game on a campus site, hosted by the team with the best record.
So all the dalliances with Texas and other Big 12 schools, the Plan B of grabbing Utah and Colorado, the big splash of an NYC preseason press conference, the new logo, the talk of a TV network ... all that, so you can play the inaugural Pac-12 title game at 54,000-seat Autzen Stadium in Eugene?
In a conference that boasts more major metropolises than any other, with L.A., San Francisco, Phoenix, Seattle, Denver, not to mention also San Diego, you chance having to host the crown jewel event of the conference - the Super Bowl, if you will - in Corvallis? Or Tucson?
Scott invoked the NFL on the rationale of bestowing home field advantage on the team with the best record, but does he recall the Buffalo Bills hosting four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s? The NFL is not stupid enough to play its showcase event on a contingency basis.
To be sure, next season is going to be tricky for the new Pac-12. USC is still on probation (pending an appeal) and therefore won't be eligible to play for the championship. Otherwise, it would've been a slam dunk to play the inaugural game at the Rose Bowl.
Maybe Scott is concerned that without the Trojans, it would be difficult to sell 90,000 tickets. He's hedging his bets - better to play in front of a full house in Eugene or Tucson than a sparse crowd in Pasadena. He clearly wanted to avoid a repeat of those memorable ACC title games in Jacksonville, where empty seats outnumbered paying customers.
But L.A. is not Jacksonville. And the Pac-10 is not the ACC (if Scott doesn't believe that, then what the hell is point of expansion?).
We say here that an inaugural Pac-12 title game in Pasadena - even without USC - would've been a smashing success. The nation's second-biggest media market doesn't have an NFL team, but does know how to throw a party (heard of the Academy Awards? Super Bowl? World Cup? Olympics?). The sheer novelty of the event would've guaranteed a sellout. And L.A. is a short flight away from anywhere in Pac-12 country, with lots of cheap lodging.
And that's how you build the momentum for a nascent project. Chances are, the Pac-12 title might be worth a trip to the BCS title game. The exuberant fans would want more, and this event would become as anticipated as the SEC championship game or the new Big Ten title game (bet you Jim Delaney wouldn't chance having that game played in West Lafayette or East Lansing).
Then you can start spreading the game around, all in major media markets with an NFL stadium as to preserve neutrality. Qwest Field, University of Phoenix Stadium, Oakland Coliseum, Invesco Field at Mile High, Candlestick, Qualcomm, and back in L.A., at the Rose Bowl, or maybe even the new NFL stadium (2018, is that enough time, Roger?).
What a wonderful opportunity. The Pac-10 title game could've been the envy of college football. Outside, in the sunshine, with some of the most attractive styles of play and players who'd soon suit up to play at these stadiums on Sundays. And yeah, the cheerleaders and song girls, too.
(And don't forget the media. If you're a national college football writer, where would you rather be? Atlanta?)
But no. Inexplicably, out of fear of failure than anything else, the Pac-10 decides to play it safe. Scott punts on fourth-and-inches.
So much for the self-proclaimed "Conference of Champions."