The failure to read the room in the Pac-12 has led to this mess


Make no mistake: Larry Scott brought the Pac-12 to this point, more than any other person. The Pac-12 might not die, but it has been permanently weakened. It won’t have the Los Angeles market in two years. It won’t have a traditional Rose Bowl. It won’t have UCLA basketball. Larry did this.

However: It does have to be said that the Pac-12 CEO Group didn’t fire Scott earlier. It didn’t put up as much of a fight against the commissioner as it could have or should have. Pac-12 presidents and chancellors did enable Scott to a certain degree. That should be mentioned, and it does reflect an internal culture and mindset within Pac-12 circles which allowed the conference to slip into bad habits and decline in value to the point where USC and UCLA felt undervalued and in need of a major cash infusion.

Leadership just didn’t make the cut. People in positions of prominence didn’t read the room well.

There are several examples of this, and John Canzano documented them at his Substack. Let’s take a look:



Arizona State University President Michael Crow speaks during a press conference regarding the Tohono O’odham Nation’s $2 million contribution to support COVID-19 research efforts at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University on Oct. 19, 2020, at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.

Every quote/episode in this collection is from John Canzano:

People say dumb things all the time. But I was reminded about something Arizona State president Michael Crow said three years ago that now sounds ridiculous. It might be the dumbest thing ever said when it comes to the Pac-12. Or at least top-5. Crow was one of the old-guard members of the CEO Group and a staunch enabler of the conference’s poor leadership.

With the Pac-12 in crisis and bleeding cash, Crow told Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic in Jan. 2019, “What somebody will be writing about three years from now or four years will be, ‘How did the Pac-12 get ahead of us.’”

Here we are — three years later. Nobody is writing about the Pac-12 being “ahead” now. But Crow’s comment got me thinking about some other things that have been said in the Pac-12 over the years.


LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 08: Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the USC Trojans shakes hands with Chris Petersen Head Coach of Washington at the end of a game at at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean Haffey/Getty Images)

I remember one-time Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian showing up at conference media day in 2015 and saying, “We all came to USC to win.” USC fired Sark a few months later.


Nov 6, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Jimmy Lake signals for his players to go to the locker room following a 26-16 loss against the Oregon Ducks at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Washington head coach Jimmy Lake told me at Pac-12 Media Day last year, “I can’t wait to play Oregon.” That game eventually caused Lake all sorts of problems.

First, he stepped in a mess in the run-up to the Oregon matchup when he made a comment about the “academic prowess” of UO. Then, during the game itself, Lake lost his cool on the sideline. He shoved a player and was let go by UW six days later.


Oct 7, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oregon State Beavers head coach Gary Andersen reacts during a NCAA football game against the Southern California Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I once wrote that I thought Gary Andersen was “exactly the right guy” to turn around Oregon State’s football program. Andersen turned around himself and walked away midseason.


PNI1208 asu fb 12/7/13– Pac 12 Championship football- – ASU Stanford– Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott talks during a press conference in ASU’s Dutson Theater before ASU plays Stanford for the Pac 12 Championship. Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic
Pni1208 Asu Fb

In 2011, at Pac-12 Media Day, commissioner Larry Scott opened his remarks with: “First, let me start by welcoming you to the Fox Studios here in Los Angeles, the first time we’re holding our media day here. In Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, an important center for the Pac-12 conference.” That “center” and entertainment capital is still under the command of Fox, but now belongs to the Big Ten.


October 12, 2017; San Francisco, CA, USA; Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott speaks during Pac-12 media day at Pac-12 Studios. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

At Pac-12 football Media Day in 2019, Scott said: “We own and control all of our media rights and have all of our rights coming up in 2024, we continue to feel very good about how we’re positioned for the future.”

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