There’s really no significant change that’s able to be made to those (TV) agreements. —Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott
SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn't quite a State of the Pac-12 speech, but conference commissioner Larry Scott addressed local media before Friday night's UCLA-Utah game on a variety of topics ranging from late kickoffs to targeting penalties and quicker football games.
• On the ongoing controversy over the “Pac-12 after dark” late kickoffs that have become more prevalent with the conference’s $3 billion TV contract:
“There’s real concern amongst our fan bases and therefore our athletic departments that engage and deal with fans in markets where there have been a lot of night games. We certainly hear from a (contingency) of fans that prefer day games to night games. We share in some of the concerns about it.
“There’s really no significant change that’s able to be made to those (TV) agreements. We’ve tried to make some changes around when Pac-12 networks games kick off (none after 7 p.m. MT).”
The conference had to make a flexibility trade-off with the networks because of the significant increase in TV revenue and exposure, he said. That means some weekday games and some late weekend games “because they’re very, very valuable for ESPN and Fox.”
• On his hopes for the task force the Pac-12 commissioned — Utah athletics director Chris Hill is among five selected — to explore the college basketball recruiting bribery scandal:
“We created the task force to make sure that as Pac-12 leadership — the conference office, university presidents, athletics directors — that we use this as an opportunity to really understand what’s going on in the recruiting environment around basketball.
“I want to make sure our leadership has a set of recommendations that come out of it — best practices — in terms of how our programs can best operate. We also want to make sure that we’re doing our part to contribute to the national effort to look at reform.”
• On feedback received from centralized replays:
Scott said communication has been "very good" between the command center at the Pac-12 offices in San Francisco and the football sites.
“I think it’s an important step toward more consistency and making sure we get as many replay calls right as possible.”
Scott lauded the move to have the “most experienced replay officials side by side” for the overall commitment to reviews.
“Obviously, it’s a significant investment we’ve had to make in terms of technology to get all the camera angles and all the connectivity so you’ve got the speed. It was important to us to not slow down the game or have delays because of replays. Getting it right was of paramount importance.”
• On steps made in nonconference action to speed up games:
Initial feedback has been “very good,” he said. The conference is collecting data that should be shared by the end of the season.
“We were able to achieve meaningful reduction in the game time. Last year, our average game time was three hours and 26 minutes. Our goal was to find some reduction with a shortened halftime, reduced commercial inventory and kicking off closer to the top of the hour so you don’t have as much delay before the game actually starts.”
• On possibly revisiting the targeting rule:
“I’ve found that targeting is one of the areas that people spend as much time on as anything in the offseason for a few reasons. It cuts right to health and safety of student-athletes and it’s part of an intentional effort to make the game as safe as possible without changing the fundamental nature of football.”
Efforts to limit targeting have forced coaches to change the way they coach tackling and made players adjust hitting methods.
“We’ve shrunk the target area,” he said.
The conference has also allowed officials to review targeting calls — as happened Friday when one such call against Utah was overturned — and to call conference headquarters if they see an infraction during a review.
The targeting topic will be revisited this offseason, including the controversy surrounding ejections.
“There is a sense that these rules are having a positive impact on the game.”