Pat Haden, Larry Scott discuss state of college football


The Marshall Sports Business Institute hosted Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott and Athletic Director Pat Haden in the second installment of its ongoing “Business of Team Sports” event series on Wednesday at the Radisson Hotel near USC.

The conversation was moderated by David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute and an associate professor at the Marshall School of Business. Both  discussed the current state and business of college football, in regard to significant accomplishments and challenges to the sport, as well as the Pac-12 conference in recent years and where they see it headed in the near future.

Scott has been relatively busy since leaving the Women’s Tennis Association to take over the conference in 2009. Since, he’s expanded the conference from 10 to 12 teams, enabling it to hold a conference championship game, launched the Pac-12 Networks and, in 2011, secured a landmark media rights deal with ESPN and FOX Sport that was worth approximately $3 billion over 12 years.

Scott kicked off the conversation by discussing all of the success that college football has had in regard to television ratings and contracts, attendance, the contesting of the College Football Playoff and conference championship games, and how that has resulted in college sports having a greater impact on society.

He quickly toned that sentiment down, though, when he brought up the notion that college sports is being examined more closely than ever before.

“I don’t think it’s ever been under the kind of scrutiny and pressure it’s under right now in terms of trying to [reconcile] big business and sports and entertainment with students that are at our campuses to receive an education and be successful in life beyond sports,” Scott said.

Echoing Scott’s remarks, Haden said the messaging about what it means to be a student-athlete is missing the mark at a conference and national level and is being hindered by what Haden called a “tsunami of lawsuits” that put athletic programs at tremendous risk.

“It’s an interesting, yet challenging time at the university level,” Haden said.

When discussing USC Athletics’ business model, Haden explained how USC loses $2 million per sport, with the exception of football and men’s basketball, creating about a $38 million void amongst 19 varsity programs.

“There’s a lot of revenue at the top, but the cost of sales is very high and this isn’t a very high margin business if you will,” Haden said.

Aside from the business side of things, both Scott and Haden have taken huge strides in recent years to improve the overall student-athlete experience.

Recently, the Pac-12 increased athletic scholarships to include the “full cost of attendance,” including food, guaranteed four-year athletic scholarships and increased medical coverage for its student-athletes.

In 2014, the Power Five conferences, including the Pac-12, were granted autonomy to write many of their own rules when it came to issues like student-athlete stipends and benefits.

“That was really a defining moment in the history of the NCAA when the five conferences were given flexibility to agree amongst ourselves,” Scott said.

When talking about the role the NCAA is going to play in five to 10 years, Scott said he believes that there’s going to be more flexibility for conferences, which will allow them to take care of their own student-athletes. He believes that as an institution, the NCAA will remain intact as a body to govern championships, create rules and regulations and conduct enforcement.

As a student-athlete once himself, Haden wants to see student-athletes receive more time off that would allow them to reap all of the benefits of the college experience, aside from college athletics.

While there are a variety of issues that Haden and the rest of athletic directors around the conference agree on, Scott said that a main challenge has been pooling each institution’s self interests to come up with compromises that would satisfy everyone’s wants and needs, all while continuing to grow the conference.

“Larry’s done a great job of building consensus amongst a diverse group of interests,” Haden said.

Scott went on to describe a conversation he had with former USC president Steven Sample while weighing whether to take the job with the Pac-12.

“He said to me at the time that USC is a very strong brand and brings a lot of value to the conference with all of the national championships, but USC isn’t getting the attention and respect it deserves for the success it’s had here because the conference is weak,” Scott said.

Since Scott has turned the conference into one of the toughest and most widely respected in the county from not only an athletic standpoint, but from an academic institution perspective as well.

“We strike the ultimate balance,” Scott said.

The conversation — which demonstrated the connection between two different types of athletic administrators who operate on both the university and conference level — was well received by the 300 or so professionals, alumni and students at the event.

“To have Commissioner Scott come down here to talk to people about what’s going on put some great perspective to the hundreds of people that were here that now better understand what an athletic director and conference commissioner face on a daily basis,” Carter said. “The business of college football is amazing, it’s huge and in L.A. with USC and UCLA, there’s really a lot of interest, especially with the season coming up.”

4 replies
    • Michael
      Michael says:

      It’s because Title XI says that there has to be the same number of scholarships for women as men and Football uses 85 so we get Lacrosse, Rowing, Soccer, Cross Country and Beach Volleyball for women. Men also have Baseball.

    • Thekatman
      Thekatman says:

      Yeah, I get it. That’s why I don’t like the Title IX schollie requirement, but hey…. what’s UCLAs excuse? They have sports teams that we don’t.

  1. JT4SC
    JT4SC says:

    They should have talked about the NCAA and their mistreatment of USC/Todd McNair. How the University has allowed this to happen unchallenged is a huge black eye on the USC Administration. Shame on them!

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