Pac-12 Facing Critical Media, Consultant, Structure and Leadership Decisions

Pac-12 presidents consider massive overhaul of conference structure, seek adviser for media strategy

Jon Wilner (MercuryNews.com)  —  Pac-12 presidents and chancellors are considering a major overhaul to “the entire structure and composition” of the conference, including “contract issues,” according to internal documents obtained by the Hotline.

The plans are outlined in a series of executive emails focused on hiring a media consultant who could be given the authority to work independently of commissioner Larry Scott and report directly to the presidents.

“The scope of work might dictate the consultant,’’ Oregon president Michael Schill wrote to Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano and Washington president Ana Mari Cauce in June.

“If it just were a media deal than (sic) any of the three might work. However, if it is the entire structure and composition of the PAC 12 as we discussed on the call, then I wonder whether consultants whose main experience is from the business world would be appropriate.

“Our values go beyond maximizing revenue. Or, at least they did prior to the current financial issues.”

The window for decisions on the media strategy and Scott’s contract are narrowing.

Scott’s agreement expires in the middle of 2022, the same year negotiations on the next media rights partnership — “the most critical thing in the history of the conference” — are expected to begin.

Although the current deal with ESPN and Fox don’t expire until the spring of 2024, media rights deals are typically finalized at least 12 months in advance.

The networks are believed to have an exclusive negotiating window with the conference that begins in the late fall of 2022 or early winter of 2023.

Adding to the complexity is the fate of the Pac-12 Networks — the conference’s wholly-owned media division that is Scott’s brainchild but has drastically underperformed expectations in areas of audience and revenue.

“The conference has to get an independent look at all this,” said a source familiar with the president’s discussions. “Someone who doesn’t report to Larry Scott; someone who reports to the executive committee.”

For more than a year, the presidents have leaned on four Pac-12 graduates for informal advice on the conference’s media strategy. They are:

Jeff Smulyan (USC), the CEO of Emmis Communications

Jim Packer (Colorado), president of worldwide TV at Lionsgate

Larry Sonsini (Cal), an attorney specializing in intellectual property

Casey Wasserman (UCLA), chair of the Wasserman media group.

(Wasserman and Schill have a close relationship that dates to Schill’s tenure as a UCLA law professor, according to a source.)

The advisors recommended that the conference hire an independent consultant to examine not only the Pac-12’s media rights position ahead of the 2022 negotiations but the overall conference structure.

According to documents, their top choice for a consultant is Randy Freer, the respected former head of Fox Sports Media Group, Fox Network Group and, until January, the chief executive of Hulu.

Freer is well versed on Pac-12 media rights strategy, having led the Fox Sports negotiations with the conference (and ESPN) on the Tier 1 deal signed in 2011.

“We believe his executive leadership experience at Hulu and Fox Sports, as well as his knowledge of the industry, makes him a viable candidate,’’ Sonsini, one of the advisors, wrote to DiStefano, the Colorado chancellor.

(Freer could not be reached for comment.)

Sonini also addressed the reporting structure:

“We strongly believe that the consultant report directly to your Executive Committee but engage in discussions with Larry Scott.”

No consultant has been hired; nor have the presidents determined to follow that course of action.

Schill, the chair of the conference’s CEO Group, issued the following statement to the Hotline through the conference office:

“As part of our strategic media partner exploration process, the Pac-12 CEO Group and Commissioner consulted with a group of prominent alumni who have deep knowledge of university athletics and the media industry. We are extremely grateful for the time and effort these folks spent and for their candid advice. 

“As is the case with any advisory group, the views of these advisors are their personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Pac-12 CEOs or the universities that make up the Pac-12.

“We continue to value their advice and support and as time goes by we will take into consideration the perspectives of a wide variety of stakeholders with respect to the future of the Pac-12 and the Pac-12 Networks.”

Through a conference spokesperson, Scott issued the following statement to the Hotline:

“I agree with the sentiments expressed by President Schill. We have strong alignment and optimism on the future of our media rights.”

Scott told the Hotline in February that he had not discussed his contract status with the presidents.

“There’s a lot going on that I’m excited about,” he said at the time, “and the alignment we’ve had (with the campuses) is as good as it’s been recently, if not ever.”

Weeks later, the pandemic forced the Pac-12 to shut down its basketball tournament and all spring competition.

Despite the havoc created on their campuses by Covid-19, the presidents and their advisors have been discussing the Pac-12’s next chapter since at least the late spring.

*** In an email to Colorado’s DiStefano in early June, Sonsini, one of the advisors, wrote:

(Bold added for reader clarity.)

“As discussed at the Pac 12 Executive Committee meeting, Jeff, Casey, Jim and I have conferred with respect to our recommendation for an independent party to be engaged in the assessment of the Pac 12 media rights and contract issues as well as the scope of review. We recommend the following:

“1. Recommendation: Our list at this time includes: Randy Freer, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Allen & Co. Of this list, we put Mr. Freer on top. We believe his executive leadership experience at Hulu and Fox Sports, as well as his knowledge of the industry, makes him a viable candidate. We believe Goldman Sachs has great experience but is more transactional oriented and they may be someone we engage if we have a transaction. We have not spoken directly with McKinsey nor Allen at this time. I note that Goldman also thought well of Mr. Freer.

“2. Scope: Once a consultant is selected, we think it is important to define the scope of the work and the related compensation. Our thought is to limit the scope at this time to canvassing the market, engaging in exploratory discussions, obtain data as to possible economic scenarios and strategies and to assess the competitive landscape. Inclusive of this scope would be information and thoughts on the status of the Pac 12 Conference as well as future challenges. No authority would be given at this time to engage in any transaction or the making of any proposals.

“3. Reporting: We strongly believe that the consultant report directly to your Executive Committee but engage in discussions with Larry Scott as well as we four advisors. All reports to you and the Committee should be kept confidential.

“4. Documentation: Once your Committee has decided on the consultant, we will be happy to help document the engagement and negotiate the compensation and scope of work. This would be done in coordination with Larry Scott.

“We certainly have not exhausted the list of other potential consultants and we have not engaged in discussions with Mr. Freer. However, the foregoing are our initial thoughts. We are happy to keep exploring but wanted to get these thoughts to you now. Also, we have not had any follow up conversations with Larry Scott but are happy to do so if helpful.

“Phil, let us know what more we can do at this time. We believe this is an important mission for the Conference and the timing critical. All the best. Larry Sonsini”

(Sonsini declined a request for comment by the Hotline.)

*** DiStefano received the email and within hours passed it along to his partners on the CEO’s executive committee, Schill and Cauce,

“Dear Mike & Ana Mari:

“I just received this email today from Larry Sonsini. I have not shared this email with Larry Scott. Should we discuss first and how do we involve our colleagues?”

(DiStefano was not immediately available for comment.)

*** Schill, who took over as chair of the CEO Group in July, responded to his colleagues, Cauce and DiStefano:

“My main concern with this is that the scope of work is not clear. And, the scope of work might dictate the consultant.

“If it just were a media deal than any of the three might work.

“However, if it is the entire structure and composition of the PAC 12 as we discussed on the call, then I wonder whether consultants whose main experience is from the business world would be appropriate. Our values go beyond maximizing revenue. Or, at least they did prior to the current financial issues.”

Exactly what Schill meant by “the entire structure and composition of the Pac-12” is not laid out in the emails.

The specifics have been kept within a tight circle of presidents and advisors, according to sources. However, the discussion likely includes a decision on conference leadership.

Scott has received high marks from the campuses for his stewardship of the conference through the pandemic, but only two members of the CEO Group that hired him, Arizona State’s Michael Crow and UCLA’s Gene Block, remain in the conference.

“The presidents have a tendency to want to avoid conflict and be collegial,” a source said. “But there are more voices … willing to express an opinion.”

Another source called Scott’s future and the media rights strategy “inseparable” issues.

If the presidents want Scott to formulate the strategy and lead the negotiations in late 2022 or early 2023, he would need a contract extension.

If the presidents want new leadership, then Scott’s contract must be bought out in order for a replacement to be hired in time to craft a strategy.

(The hiring process for commissioner-level positions can take more than six months.)

“If they’re going to make a change,” a source said, “the sooner the better so that someone can understand the conference and its strengths, weakness and complexities.”

mercurynews.com

__________

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RialtoTrojan
Noble Member
September 4, 2020 9:05 am

At this point I think Larry Scott is grasping at straws in a region where straws are not allowed. I want to see football and I still have a problem with the postponement or cancellation of games based on what another conference did, but someone needs to make up their mind. These magic solutions that keep popping up lend credence to the theory that Covid is being played for convenience not health.

Steveg
Mt Rushmore
September 3, 2020 3:07 pm

I made the mistake of looking at the upcoming football tv schedule. I have to say it seems so empty with no Pac12 or Big10 games, like who wants to watch SW Mississippi St and some other school nobody has heard of. Very disappointed.

Golden Trojan
Diamond Member
September 3, 2020 5:55 pm
Reply to  Steveg

C’mon! Houston Baptist versus North Texas! What’s not to get pumped about that one?😁 Go Mean Green!

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
September 3, 2020 1:27 pm

The is a gift to everyone on this board. Read Jason Whitlock’s article on the NFL in Outkick yesterday. I just read it. It is amazing. Read it and recommend any football fan read it.

Golden Trojan
Diamond Member
September 3, 2020 2:27 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

Just read it. Puts things in perspective. Of course Jason Whitlock is simply labeled Uncle Tom or as Michael Harriot refers to him as an oxpecker. Heaven forbid an intelligent black man would try to disrupt the communist/anarchist revolution.

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
September 3, 2020 12:11 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, if he stays away from major injuries, IMO Tua will be outstanding. Of course, when you run as often as he does, that will require some luck too.

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
September 3, 2020 10:22 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Thanks Allen — that adds an important, additional level of major concern to the public discourse.

Am I to assume that COVID is the cause of their myocarditis? I ask because I cannot envision conditioned young athletes having such a medical issue “BEFORE” getting the disease.

Wow, if this diagnosis has legs, the discussion of team sports being that important (risk to take) will logically follow.

gametv
Active Member
September 3, 2020 2:12 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Why is this not something that is being discussed for everyone, not just athletes? If this holds for a large percentage of the people who have been infected with COVID, then we have trillions of damage that is being done.

Quite frankly, I dont understand why the whole international community is not demanding reparations from China. This could potentially be trillions of damage done because the communist government refused to tell the truth about the disease. People lambast Trump when he calls it the chinese disease, but the lack of contrition from the Chinese government is just atrocious.

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
September 4, 2020 8:19 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The myocarditis and CCPWuhan virus positive cases may be a false correlation. I don’t claim to be a cardiologist and I did NOT stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but there is some additional testing needed–the athletes who tested non-positive for CCPWuhan should also have their hearts checked with the same tests and imaging tools. Perhaps Myocarditis is a frequent side effect of heavy athletic training in young men whose DNA leave them subject to higher probabilities of Myocarditis. May have nothing to do with catching the virus.

HOF19
Noble Member
September 2, 2020 8:07 pm

And since I am in bordeline fantasy phase right now could a Rose Bowl (played a week or 2 after the Super Bowl say between SC and Ohio State) get a decent TV audience ?

HOF19
Noble Member
September 2, 2020 8:03 pm

A thought ………Could Wash ………Wash State ……..Oregon ………Oregon State play games at the Tacoma Dome (in Tacoma Wash.) 3-4-5 months from now ?(Per Wikipedia It was the site of the NCAA Div 1-A football championship in 1985 and 1986)

HOF19
Noble Member
September 2, 2020 7:53 pm

Yankee and Mets have a make-up game tomorrow afternoon At The Mets Stadium…..I noticed MLB Network has a flex schedule set up for that exact time slot tomorrow afternoon …….They make the game a nationally televised game ? (and use the Mets Network TV feed )?

Jamaica
Knighted Member
September 2, 2020 5:54 pm

PAC-12 presidents are doing the same thing AD Bohn has done with HC Helton…. hiring people around commissioner Scott to do his work for him (which he crapped out on). With leaders like these in charge, is it a wonder they are so laughed at as being clueless?.

redondob
Active Member
September 2, 2020 6:32 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I remember first meeting Tom at the Sigma Chi house in 1965. I said who is the guy running up and down the upstairs hall and it was Tom. I think he was a pledge but not sure if he ever was initiated.
Amazing how many great athletes at SC in that era.

redondob
Active Member
September 2, 2020 7:59 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Don’t forget Mike Holmgren

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 9:25 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I remember at a party when Battle and Rossovich chewed up cocktail glasses just for laughs. If I hadn’t seen it myself I would not have believed it.

rossovich chewed up cocktail glasses.

Linkster
Noble Member
September 3, 2020 4:18 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen and Redondo – I played BB at USC and was a Sig as well during that era. Holmgren was my roommate and Valentine and Buckner were/are great friends. Seaver hung around the Sig house but never joined. I could tell Rossovich and Battle stories until the cows come home. The 60’s were an incredible time to be at USC. What a depressing time it is for the school now.

Linkster
Noble Member
September 3, 2020 4:24 pm
Reply to  Linkster

Additionally, I saw Battle at Rossovich’s wake last year. Pretty much the same guy. Married Cory well and lives on a big ranch in Texas. Buckner went out with Jan and married her. Later got divorced. valentine was secretly engaged to high high school girl friend Roxanne and later got divorced as well. Later married Mary Branca (daughter of Ralph). Great people all, what a time to be at USC!!!

Linkster
Noble Member
September 3, 2020 6:48 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Yeah Mike Fahrekrug (not sure about spelling). He was a couple of years younger than we were. I graduated in 70 so he had to be a 72 or later. The Sigs of that era were incredible in terms of doing something with their lives: Tom Selleck, John Mork, Mike Holmgren, Valentine and Buckner, Ron Schwary ( won Academy Awards),Steve Grady, Paul Orfaela (founders of Kinkos) and many, many others were incredibly successful in business/commerce. I go to a Christmas lunch just about every year with all these guys and it is a fun time to see all these old… Read more »

redondob
Active Member
September 3, 2020 8:15 pm
Reply to  Linkster

Kinko wasnt a Sig. He was a good friend of Danny Trevizian and hung around a lot. Nevertheless an amazing story.

HOF19
Noble Member
September 2, 2020 7:46 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I was at Shea Stadium filing out my scorecard ……I looked down to write in it and heard a bat hit a ball …..Looked up and Jimmy Qualls was standing at first base with a single with 1 out in the 9th inning ……He had just ruined Tom Seavers perfect game attempt …….Every sports channel here in the NY Metro area are only talking about his career as I am typing this …..Even Yes Network (Yankees owned channel ) is talking about Seaver and Not the Yankee game they are doing …..#1 story right now in the area I live… Read more »

Steveg
Mt Rushmore
September 2, 2020 5:37 pm

I can see this is going to be the route they take to ease Scott out of the door. If they don’t get him out, the Pac12 is going to sink and become the Mountain West.

Golden Trojan
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 1:08 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

How many starting Pac 12 QBs wish they were in his shoes? Playing somewhere, anywhere. I will be rooting for him to do well.

gametv
Active Member
September 2, 2020 4:23 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I hope JT does great at Georgia. He has always seemed to be a supportive teammate, even when things didnt go his way.

Steveg
Mt Rushmore
September 2, 2020 5:40 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I wonder if JT will fit into the offense or if they will tailor the offense to fit him. He eliminates any run game by the QB.

Chris
Knighted Member
September 2, 2020 12:30 pm

its been a bit since I have logged on, I’ve lost all enthusiasm for the season. I always thought college football would hold my attention no matter what, but without us playing this fall I find myself not caring much.

Chris
Knighted Member
September 2, 2020 12:31 pm
Reply to  Chris

* Not playing

Chris
Knighted Member
September 2, 2020 1:18 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I’ll watch the big games, but not going to hunker down on saturdays like I have for the past 30 years.

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 4:47 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

JT Daniels will continue show his shortcomings in the college game, even behind the formidable GA line. Too slow and too short of stature. He is J D Booty writ large.

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 7:25 am
Reply to  ATL D.D.S.

I could not agree more ATL. And we didn’t get to see him with an O-line as good as what Booty had to make a perfect comparison IMHO. But, that being said, I wish JT well — he seemed like a great young man when he was here.

Golden Trojan
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 9:41 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

It should be fun to see JT with a team that is better coached and more talented. Just one more reason to watch College Football without USC. Allen you should start a list of reasons to watch College Football sans Trojans. I’ll start with 1. Cheer any team playing Notre Dame.

Golden Trojan
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 9:44 am
Reply to  Golden Trojan

By the way looks like we have BYU v Navy on Monday plus 8 other games this weekend.

Golden Trojan
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 12:45 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

LSU will be my team as well. Coach O’s energy is so infectious and all he did for SC and got the shaft, gotta love him.

LawyerJohn
Knighted Member
September 1, 2020 1:31 pm

Indiana gets $30 million more than SC, someone wrote. That is the problem with West Coast football. It often starts when most footballers are going to bed. It is all about ratings.

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 4:48 am
Reply to  LawyerJohn

Wow!

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
September 1, 2020 10:30 am

If the school presidents would only solve the Larry Scott issue, the right leader can come in and make the difference. JMHO 👍

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
September 1, 2020 9:54 am

I don’t trust the PAC-12 brain trust. They have always been out to get SC because no one else in the conference matches their national cache. Yes, hard times of late, but all we need to do to correct that is to hire a president who gets USC and doesn’t want to turn SC into the marxist university of her dreams.

I would love us to go independent. Why not now?

gametv
Active Member
September 1, 2020 11:02 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

agree that Folt is nothing but a politician. she does not provide any broad vision for USC and wont even stand up and explain the moves she is making.

if there is going to be any leadership at USC, it will come from leadership of specific departments. i still feel that unless SC replaces Helton, there will be no real changes that bring back fans. it is just real hard to get enthused about mediocrity and excuses.

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
September 1, 2020 1:10 pm
Reply to  gametv

Agree totally on Folt; she is a light weight intellectually (narrow minded, judgemental and ideological) but very politically savvy and ruthless. I think that Folt’s political instincts will kick in and she will move away from this and delegate it to Bohn. She cannot be so stupid as to not see the extraordinary animosity she has engendered in the alumni base. She will have to back away, hope Bohn can solve it, and will then take credit for any success.

Trojan5
Knighted Member
September 1, 2020 12:33 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Happy Tuesday Allen. Wilner knows what is happening in the Pac-12 and I think he has the reputation of being a straight shooter. As a result people all across the conference talks to him and trusts him.

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
September 1, 2020 1:15 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I think it shows that even the “woke” get that the Big 10 schools are pulling down $30 million a year more than the Pac schools (Indiana making $30 million more than SC) needs to be addressed. My guess is Larry is done. He has been removed from football and replaced by Merton Hanks; he is about to be removed from any media controls or negotiations. Next, they need to move the headquarters out of the Bay Area and move it to Las Vegas.

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
September 1, 2020 6:12 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that I’d miss Hansen. Oh well, even Hansen has a safety net in Scott. 😥

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
September 2, 2020 4:50 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, I give you credit for being optimistic. Perhaps I should try that suit of clothes on more frequently.