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Cal needs Larry Scott to get his act together more than anybody

Can Cal afford it if the Pac-12 Networks fail?

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Conference Championship-Utah vs Washington Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, have you heard that the Pac-12 is in shambles?!

But when it comes to the two high-profile men’s sports of football and basketball, the Pac-12 is falling short. Months removed from Scott’s boo-inducing interview, as the college basketball season winds into its final stretch, the conference’s vertiginous fall in the top two revenue-generating sports is unmistakable.

That the Pac-12 is struggling badly in both revenue sports is undeniable. It’s harder to make a direct connection between those on-field struggles and the Pac-12’s lagging revenue generation, but the conference is nevertheless getting plenty of bad press on that front as well. From Jon Wilner:

Midway through their seventh year, the Pac-12 Networks aren’t merely stagnating. They’re shrinking in reach and drastically underperforming revenue expectations, according to information obtained by the Hotline that sheds unprecedented light on the financial realities of the conference’s wholly-owned media company.

You should read the entire article, but the crux of the issue is that Larry Scott and the Pac-12 bet big on themselves by deciding to retain 100% ownership of their TV channels and content . . . and that bet lost big. As it turns out, betting big on the media might of the major conference with the lowest population footprint and comparatively lower fan enthusiasm was a mistake:

According to a source who attended the presentation, those payout ranges were:

High end: $7 million-to-$10 million per school per year

Middle: $5 million-to-$7 million per school per year

Low end: $3 million-to-$5 million per school per year.

But after six payout cycles, the networks have yet to even hit the low end of the expected range, according to financial information obtained by the Hotline.

Now everybody (including yours truly!) is now taking the opportunity to pile on. Columnists from Oregon, Seattle, Spokane, Los Angeles, Utah . . . pretty much every metro area in the Pac-12 footprint have reported on the Pac-12’s behind-the-scenes struggles.

And the Pac-12 has provided plenty of fodder. From Scott’s absurd, super-sized salary to the expensive real estate of conference head quarters to a series of embarrassing headlines involving how the conference manages officiating for both football and basketball, the conference we root for has spent most of the last few years shooting themselves in the foot.

You might be wondering why I’m bothering to compile all of this, since much of this is now well-reported public knowledge. I’ve got a few reasons:

  1. All of these conference officials, including but absolutely not limited to Larry Scott, make their borderline criminally high salaries because they don’t have to compensate their employees commensurate to the value they produce. When you get paid 4.8 million per year in this role, you deserve a high degree of scrutiny for your job performance.
  2. I don’t know what Pac-12 network revenue projections Cal planned for when mapping out their athletic department budgets, but due to stadium debt and the sheer number of programs Cal runs, our university is uniquely impacted by the success or (evident) failure of the Pac-12 networks to make money.
  3. Maybe if everybody makes enough noise, Cal and other Pac-12 schools will start holding Larry Scott and the Pac-12 accountable in some fashion. Scott’s bosses are the chen

Revenue is always a timely topic. Cal, by necessity, went with a relatively affordable option in hiring longtime defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. If Wilcox, behind a generationally great defense, produces an above average year next season, he will likely be due a contract extension. His defensive coaches will also likely require bumps to retain.

When hiring a replacement for Cuonzo Martin, Cal, by necessity, went with the most affordable option possible. As it currently stands, Wyking Jones’ buyout at the end of this season is 3 million dollars. That sounds like a lot of money, but for most schools that wouldn’t really be a deterrent to making a change if the AD decided it was needed. At least 14 schools pay their coaches that much money in annual salary.

Cal is in an unenviable position of trying to operate revenue programs at a major conference level without, you know, the actual revenue part. If Cal weren’t facing looming stadium debt or running a huge program maybe they could get by on less revenue. Colorado paid Mike MacIntyre 10 million to go away. UCLA gave 12 million to Jim Mora. Washington and UCLA both recently paid more than 3 million dollars to fire men’s basketball head coaches. But those programs can (I assume) afford to do that.

Cal needs to make money to pay down their debt . . . but in part because of the failure of the Pac-12 Network they might not have the financial flexibility to make changes in an attempt to make that money.

So please, for the love of God Larry Scott: fix things?