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Pac-12 insider complains about USC’s attitude toward the conference

Details about USC’s exit from the Pac-12 keep emerging.

John Canzano, at his Substack, unearthed this piece of internal drama from 2018:

In late 2018, the sitting Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott presented his bosses with a wild idea. He wanted to go “Shark Tank” and sell an equity stake in the Pac-12 Conference.

The conference members needed a cash infusion. Their media rights agreement was outdated and delivered each Pac-12 member $10 million-a-year less than their peers in the SEC and Big Ten.

The “Pac-12 NewCo” plan was introduced by Scott to the conference presidents and chancellors at their mid-November meeting and was subsequently discussed in a conference call in December of 2018.

Nine months later, Scott went public and said the conference was unable to find a suitable solution. He said of the presidents and chancellors: “They don’t want to do something with a private equity or financial firm.”

Turns out, there was a deal on the table. Just not one that the presidents and chancellors could agree they should take.

The Pac-12 was offered $1 billion for 15 percent equity in the conference by a private-equity firm, per sources involved in the process. The biggest pushback to making the deal came from two particular camps — USC and UCLA.

“The Trojans have had one foot out the door for two decades,” said one source.

A few notes about this:

  • Why would UCLA push back against this plan if paying debts was so important to the Bruins?
  • Did other non-USC, non-UCLA Pac-12 CEO Group members have a problem with a private equity firm being involved? It seems that not wanting private equity to get its hands on a piece of the Pac-12 is enlightened governance, not timidity.
  • Why couldn’t a more palatable plan have been created?
  • Reminder: If Scott had been willing to hand over the keys to ESPN a few years ago, we’re not having this discussion today.

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