Larry Scott speaks on state of the conference at Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament
SEATTLE – Commissioner Larry Scott held a wide-ranging roundtable discussion with members of the West Coast media Saturday afternoon inside KeyArena before the Pac-12 Women’s Tournament semifinal game between Stanford and USC.
Scott touched on everything from the future of the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, to the conference’s ongoing negotiations with cable provider DirecTV, to his goal of decreasing the number of Pac-12 football games with late kick-off times.
His opening statement, however, provided a resounding message about the effect Pac-12 Networks, in just its second year, had on Pac-12 women’s basketball this season.
“It’s pretty unprecedented this year. We had the most women’s basketball – not just in our conference’s history – probably in any conference’s history, on television, with 106 women’s basketball broadcasts,” Scott said.
“Our sense is that the awareness and respect for Pac-12 women’s basketball is on the rise. Generally I feel like Pac-12 women’s basketball is getting deeper, getting stronger. I’m optimistic about the future and hoping this tournament ends on an exciting note, which I think it will.”
Hailing from the smallest media markets in the conference, programs like WSU and OSU have benefitted ten-fold from the increased exposure.
“When I talk to the coaches, they believe that television exposure is critical in that it gives you more of a national recruiting platform,” said Scott. “You can talk to kids from anywhere in the country and their families will be able to watch them and see them play.
“That’s the feedback I get from the coaches in women’s basketball and frankly in all the sports.”
The Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament is in its second year at Seattle’s KeyArena, current home to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, after signing a three-year agreement in March 2012. Scott said he hasn’t started negotiations on a new deal, but that he’s been impressed with the atmosphere and attendance in Seattle since he moved the tournament from Los Angeles.
The decision to move the Men’s Pac-12 Basketball Tournament to Las Vegas, beginning last season, was a success as well.
“I would describe Las Vegas last year as a big hit. I’d say it exceeded expectations in terms of attendance, the atmosphere and the feedback we got from everyone,” said Scott. “Based on the word of mouth it feels like this year is going to be even bigger and more exciting.”
A sore point for a vocal segment of fans, schools and media members was the increased number of night football games in 2013. Following the season, Scott said his priority was to work alongside broadcast partners ESPN and Fox to schedule more day games in 2014. That plan hasn’t changed.
“We are going to try and bring down the number of night games, but it requires cooperation and agreement from our broadcast partners that have certain rights. (It’s) in progress,” Scott said.
Meanwhile, there hasn’t been any progress in negotiations between the Pac-12 and DirecTV, Scott said.
“There’s really no new news, unfortunately,” said Scott. “Sitting here today I’m not optimistic that there’s going to be any movement. They’re in fact picking more battles with others – the Dodgers Network in LA and the SEC Network
“We keep approaching them every few months, but there’s nothing imminent,” Scott said.