NEW YORK » For years people in the Pac-10—from players to fans—have complained about a lack of recognition and a so-called East Coast bias that caused the conference to be under-appreciated nationally.
Commissioner Larry Scott, who grew up in New York on Long Island, decided that instead of complaining, it was time for the league to do something about it.
Say goodbye to the old Pac-10. The league has a new logo, a new more aggressive attitude and two new members scheduled to arrive in 2011. And when Colorado and Utah officially join, the conference will also have a new name.
The Pac-12 is on its way.
"We will be mathematically correct going forward," Scott said Monday at a news conference at a Manhattan hotel.
Scott brought all his football coaches and a few of his star quarterbacks—including Washington’s Jake Locker and Stanford’s Andrew Luck—to the Big Apple for a couple of days to draw some more attention to a conference that has been making plenty of headlines this offseason.
In June, Scott nearly turned the Pac-10 into the Pac-16—and in the process nearly killed the Big 12.
But Texas, Oklahoma and three other Big 12 teams decided to stay put and Scott had to settle for adding Colorado and Utah.
It was a bold move by a conference known for being anything but. Scott, about to start his second season as commissioner, says he received a mandate from the university presidents he works for to remake the league and he’s embraced that task.
"I spent my first three months kind of listening," he said. "The common refrain I kept hearing was everyone recognized the excellence of the Pac-10 here on the West Coast, but we don’t feel we get the respect we deserve nationally.
"It seemed to be a bit of an excuse and that the Pac-10 in my estimation was very laid back and passive in terms of how it went about telling its story and promoting itself," he said.
"To me the disconnect was people worried about that, but they were not really doing much about it."
The Pac-10 had been holding its football preseason media event at an airport hotel in Los Angeles for years. The one-day event drew little attention east of Arizona, especially in comparison to the multiple-day media circuses run by other power conferences such as the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten and Big 12.
Scott attended his first Pac-10 football media day last year and was less than impressed.
"This can’t be how we’re promoting ourselves," he said was his reaction.
It’s hard to imagine coaches in the SEC or Big Ten packing up for a few days right before the start of preseason practice and traveling to New York city simply to meet the media, but Scott’s coaches embraced the idea.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly, a northeasterner with roots in New England, loves the idea of the Pac-10’s outreach program.
"I think it’s smart. I have friends back in the northeast that want to see us play, but they’re getting Big 12 games," Kelly said. "Why aren’t they getting Pac-10 games?"
And that will be Scott’s biggest challenge. The Pac-10 will be in the market for a new television contract starting next year. Scott’s goal is to land a deal that will allow it to compete with the SEC and Big Ten, which are paying its members about twice what Pac-10 teams make based mostly on more lucrative television deals.
The new logo—a sleek looking shield with images of waves and mountains surrounding the number 10 (for now)—a new website and a new promotional video that references Lewis and Clark’s exploration are nice first steps, but what the Pac-10 needs most of all is its games televised in better time slots and reaching more homes.
But for now, the Pac-10 is done complaining about who’s not paying attention and going about the business of making sure it gets noticed.
"The response has been terrific," Scott said. "People are craving change, they’re craving energy."
TCU picked to win MWC
TCU is still on top in the Mountain West Conference.
The Horned Frogs received all 31 first-place votes in the league’s preseason media poll, released yesterday.
TCU, which finished 12-1 last season with its only loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, has 16 returning starters, including preseason offensive player of the year Andy Dalton. The senior quarterback, who was the 2009 MWC offensive player of year, is one of nine starters coming back on offense.
TCU linebacker Tank Carder was named the preseason player of the year on defense and kick returner Jeremy Kerley got the special teams honor.
Utah is picked to finish second in its last season before joining the Pac-10. BYU is third, followed by Air Force, Wyoming, San Diego State and Colorado State.
UNLV is eighth as coach Bobby Hauck takes over the program, and New Mexico is picked to repeat at ninth after going 1-11 last year.