Larry Scott will leave his post as commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference at the end of June, ending a 10-year run in which the league added two schools and achieved unparalleled success in Olympic sports while struggling to attain the financial success of peers like the Big Ten and SEC.
Scott, the highest-paid commissioner in college sports, and the conference mutually agreed to part ways on June 30, one year before his contract is set to expire, according to a news release. Scott will be paid through June 2022.
“We appreciate Larry’s pioneering efforts in growing the conference by adding new competitive university programs and accelerating the Pac-12 to television network parity with the other conferences,” University of Oregon president Michael Schill said in a statement. “At one point, our television agreement was the most lucrative in the nation and the debut of the Pac-12 Network helped deliver our championship brand to U.S. and global markets on traditional and digital platforms. That said, the intercollegiate athletics marketplace doesn’t remain static and now is a good time to bring in a new leader who will help us develop our go-forward strategy.”
Scott’s replacement will be tasked with trying to bring conference revenue more in line with the NCAA’s other biggest leagues. The Pac-12 distributed about $32.2 million to each of its schools in fiscal 2019, on par with the ACC ($29 million) but far behind both the SEC ($44.3 million) and the Big Ten ($55.6 million).
Scott took the job in 2009 and guided the league through a wave of conference realignment that has redefined the haves and have-nots in college sports. The Pac-12 added two schools, Utah and Colorado, and emerged as one of college football’s “Power Five” leagues. Those leagues have since been granted autonomy to make some of their own rules, including new benefits for athletes and scholarship limits, further distancing themselves from the rest of Division I.
Under Scott’s leadership, conference members agreed to equal revenue sharing for the first time and also launched the Pac-12 Networks, a series of regional sports channels designed to give exposure to league sports beyond just football and basketball. The Pac-12 also inked 12-year media deals with ESPN and FOX worth a total of $3 billion, once the most lucrative media deals in the NCAA, but since surpassed by a number of its peers.
Scott’s media strategy may be his enduring legacy. While other leagues partnered with ESPN or Fox Sports on joint networks, the Pac-12 decided to go it alone. The result is a league that controls all of its TV rights, though it is paid far less for them. Scott believed the arrangement would give the Pac-12 more flexibility during the next round of negotiations. Now those will be handle by his successor.
Scott’s leadership drew criticism in recent years for his response to a football replay scandal, reports of an agreement to funnel ad dollars to the Los Angeles Times for access and favorable coverage, and for his handling of COVID-19 pandemic. The Pac-12 was one of a few conferences that initially declined to play football this fall before reversing course a few weeks later. His salary—over $5 million prior to the pandemic— and the conference’s spending habits were also a consistent source of contention.
Prior to joining the Pac-12, Scott was chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association.