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ASU AD: SEC, Big Ten ‘ran by’ with Pac-12 Networks ‘stuck in neutral’

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott attends the college football game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Utah Utes at Arizona Stadium on September 22, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It’s been rare to find critical, on-the-record accounts about the state of the Pac-12 from inside the conference, even as outside negativity about commissioner Larry Scott mounted over the past few years.

Now that the conference’s leaders have decided to find a new commissioner, it’s probable that university presidents and athletic directors will be open to a more frank conversation about what went wrong during Scott’s tenure. Count Ray Anderson, the Arizona State vice president for university athletics, among them.

While speaking Tuesday on The Anderson & Healey Show, Anderson gave an honest assessment about what he believes led to school presidents looking for new Pac-12 leadership.

It starts, Anderson said, with the Pac-12 Networks.

“Early on it had a lot of promise,” said Anderson, who added in the appearance on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station that he is not interested in leaving ASU to replace Scott as Pac-12 commissioner.

“Early on, it actually had produced some additional revenues. Then it kind of got stuck in neutral and wasn’t able to get the distribution and DirecTV, and all of the sudden the other conferences, the SEC and Big 10 in particular, really ran by us and continued to run by us whereby we could not start reducing the gap appropriately … in terms of the revenue difference and, consequently, the distributions to the universities to allow for us to keep up in terms of competition.”

Scott took criticism for moving the Pac-12 offices into a pricey rental location in the heart of San Francisco. He strayed from joining broadcast partners like ESPN and FOX, who run other conference networks, and kept the Pac-12 independent.

While it helped promote Olympic sports that don’t bring in revenues that football and men’s basketball do, the move backfired in other ways.

Football and basketball games went well beyond midnight on the East Coast — or even started then. Failed negotiations to get DirecTV just to carry the networks hurt viewership as well.

“… The fact that they couldn’t see Pac-12 football in too many homes across the country, at the end of the day, I think that was the biggest disappointment and was the deciding factor … (school presidents) didn’t think that (Scott) perhaps was able to rectify that problem moving forward,” Anderson said.

“They determined as group it was time for a change after 11 years. I happen to consider Larry a friend, so obviously I feel bad that he’s terminating earlier than he wanted to but I certainly understand the business components of it.”

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