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College Hotline - Pac-12: Commissioner Larry Scott talks Asia

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  1. RSSBot

    RSSBot News Junkie

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    The Pac-12’s approach to Asia and Pacific Rim is one of the most controversial facets of commissioner Larry Scott’s tenure.

    It’s probably the least understood, as well — at least in a what-in-the-world-are-they-doing-over-there sense.

    It was the first topic I covered with Scott when we sat down to discuss the conference’s hot-button issues.

    Many of my questions (across various topics) were based on feedback from fans and campus officials.

    But Asia … Asia confounds me, too.

    ** Why spend the money and resources on a pursuit that will provide no near-term financial windfall?

    ** What is the end-game?

    ** Is the push primarily driven by a desire to attract full-tuition international students?

    ** How much, exactly, is the league spending annually on Asia?

    ** And what, if any, role does Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, play in all of this?


    Here are the result of the conversation, separated into sections to help with clarity:

    (Disclaimer: As with all forthcoming installments in this series, the goal is not to defend or lambaste the conference … nor to sway public opinion.

    (First and foremost, the Hotline always strives to inform the public discussion. In regard to many Pac-12 issues, there are gaps in the narrative. This series is an attempt to fill in some of those gaps — not all, but some — based on my 45-minute conversation with Scott on a variety of topics.

    (Hopefully, readers will come away with a bit more insight into the league’s inner-workings. If that changes your opinion on certain issues, fine. If it’s doesn’t, that’s fine, too.)

    *** Scott began the conversation about the Global Initiative in general, and Asia/Pacific Rim specifically, by explaining the ultimate mission:

    “It’s about international brand building, engagement and relationship development,’’ he said. “Asia is globally significant to us.”

    He went on:

    “After I was hired, I spent time on every campus. On my first visit to USC, I had breakfast with (then-) president (Steve) Sample. He talked about USC as a global institution and had a vision for Los Angeles as the gateway to the Pacific Rim. I said, ‘Should we be doing more to support that vision?’”

    Scott had similar conversations about brand-building in Asia with other presidents and chancellors, and from there sprouted the concept of the Global Initiatives project, which is hyper-focused on the Pacific Rim.

    Clearly, China is important to the presidents – so important that Utah’s boss, David Pershing, accompanied the Pac-12 contingent to China last fall for the Washington-Texas basketball game.

    That’s right: The Utes weren’t involved, but Pershing went anyhow because he views China as important to Utah’s future.

    And according to the conference, Pershing brought along several state legislators.

    *** Clearly, China is important to many (but perhaps not all) of the league’s presidents and chancellors, and that makes perfect sense.

    But it got me thinking: With so much of Global Initiative designed to benefit the universities as a whole, shouldn’t the universities — the central campuses — carry the financial load?

    As the infrastructure currently stands, the cost in resources and dollars is carried by athletic departments. The money spent by the conference in Asia is money they aren’t getting. The resources (i.e., people-power) sent by the conference to Asia, especially in November, are resources they aren’t getting.

    I agree with the premise that athletics is the so-called front porch to the universities. But if China is that important, why wouldn’t the 12 central campuses pool their vast resources to fund a major push to accomplish all the goals?

    Maybe every school kicks in $250,000 annually from the general fund. That would quadruple the conference’s current outlay.

    And let’s face it: The way universities waste money, nobody would notice.

    *** As for resources …

    In FY15, the Pac-12 spent $726,000 on Asia/Pacific Rim initiatives. That figure has undoubtedly risen in FY16 because of the resources required for Washington’s trip and the costs associated with promoting the Huskies’ basketball game against Texas. (And expected similar costs in FY17, with Stanford playing in China in November.)

    But Scott said – and this was something I didn’t know – that the terms of the league’s partnership with Alibaba will defray most of the costs over and above the $726,000 figure.

    Because of that, he added, the FY16 expenses would be approximately the same as in FY15.

    (Note: The league has two full-time employees devoted to the Asia/Pacific Rim initiatives.)

    *** I asked Scott if the cross-Pacific push is, as I’ve been told for years, largely rooted in the desire on the part of the presidents and chancellors to attract full-tuition international students.

    He downplayed that angle – my guess is that he doesn’t want it to seem like a pure money play. And I don’t think it is, in fact, a pure money play.

    Seems to me that Asia is some of everything … some (presidential) desire for full tuition students … some desire to brand-build and develop business/research partners … some desire to expose student-athletes to different cultures.

    Whether you agree with the Asia push or not, the reality is the majority of presidents and chancellors are wholly on board.

    *** In the grand scheme of the league’s budget, Scott added, the money and resources spent on Asia are relatively small.

    “There’s a misconception that it costs a lot of money, that it’s s big distraction,” he said. “It’s really not.”

    I noted the public perception — that the conference is making a big push overseas with open wounds on the domestic front.

    Instead of promoting events and building relationships in China, shouldn’t he work to mend the divide with AT&T/DirecTV?

    “In a role like this,’’ Scott said, “you’re capable of multi-tasking.

    “Just because I’m doing one thing doesn’t mean I’m not working on something else. It’s not linear. I don’t do this, then that.”

    Coming next in the series: Scott talks Pac-12 Networks.

    xxxxxxxxxxxx

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    The post Pac-12: Commissioner Larry Scott talks Asia appeared first on College Hotline.

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    by Jon Wilner
     
  2. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    Next installment from Wilner's interview with Scott will be on Pac-12 Networks.

    Personally, I'm still supportive of Scott & the Pac-12 strategy. Simply put, the Pac-12 has natural disadvantages it can never overcome in a straight apples-to-apples competition for media revenue versus the B1G, SEC, Big 12 or ACC. Time zone misses much of the nation and home fan bases aren't as into college football. Plus, on a national level the west was so isolated for so long that generations who grew up on sports before the Internet or even cable were kings didn't have a chance to connect with western colleges. (I'm 43 and as a teenager I hardly saw Pac-10 games other than USC vs Notre Dame and on Sunday morning many of the scores wouldn't even have made the newspaper box scores.)

    So, Scott and the Pac-12 isn't trying to compete apples-to-apples. That's a losing battle despite the population growth in the US favoring the west over the long-term. The strategy is for the long-term. What are the assets that are advantageous and uniquely position the Pac-12?

    1. Gateway to Asia (media opportunities, prospective full-price students, research collaborations)
    2. Olympic Sport dominance (global media opportunities)
    3. Technology Hub (Los Angeles for production & broadcast and San Francisco for computer tech, plus other conf members strong)

    Based on this, positioning the conference for the long-term by owning 100% of content, doing a deal with Alibaba and developing the Pacific Rim market for the Pac-12, and working with technology companies to develop capabilities for the future of broadcast streaming & connectivity... that is how the Pac-12 eventually comes out as the winner in this race.
     
  3. sackman

    sackman Club Member Club Member

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    I still wonder about the ultimate goal here. If it's for Olympic Sports, then why aren't more Olympic sports shown in the P12 network? Wrestling, swimming, track, cross country, skiing... I don't see those offered on the P12 network. It seems like we are trying to fit a square peg (American sports, namely football) into a round hole (Asian sport preferences).
     
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  4. skibum

    skibum Peed in your Cheerios. Club Member

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    This.

    I would actually put a broadcast of a random olympic sport on in a corner of my computer monitor, or on my workshop TV, but I'm not going to put the 162nd rebroadcast of the Utah-Oregon State football game from 2014 on those same screens.
     
  5. gobuffs58

    gobuffs58 Well-Known Member

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    Asia?...how about getting the pac 12 network into my home?
     
  6. Big Jim

    Big Jim WTF? Club Member

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    FIFY
     
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  7. BUFFering

    BUFFering Well-Known Member

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    The news from a couple of weeks back about the conference diving into e-sports is just the start to address your point. E-sports is MASSIVE in South Korea and growing quickly globally. Its not the sports we all grew up with, but it is a massive future source of revenue in the future that the conference is getting ahead of.
     
  8. sackman

    sackman Club Member Club Member

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    Video games? Are we actually talking about televising video games?

    If the B12 weren't so f'ed up, I'd be tempted to say we made a mistake.
     
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  9. Big Jim

    Big Jim WTF? Club Member

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    BUFFering is absolutely correct. ESPN already broadcasts video game competitions between colleges. Not only is it huge in S. Korea, but the number of people in the USA that watch is massive. E-Sports already has as many people watching tournaments as watch NBA finals games and World Series games. Activision just bought an e-sports broadcasting company and hired the former head of ESPN to run it.
     
  10. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    ^^^this^^^

    I don't pretend to understand, but if it's something that will better connect the students across the 12 campuses that they have fun with, then cool.
     
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  11. bombay

    bombay Well-Known Member

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    Kind of sad, but likely a glimpse of the future. Better to get out front than play catch up.
     
  12. BUFFering

    BUFFering Well-Known Member

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    This is pure speculation, but the continued issues with sports related head trauma may make this move even smarter. I'm not saying football (or any other sport) is going to disappear because of head trauma concerns, but participation levels will have to suffer at some point.
     
  13. White_Rabbit

    White_Rabbit Club Member Club Member

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