athletics schools

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott discusses conference’s financial hit and ‘concern and anxiety’ over athletes because of coronavirus

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By Jon Wilner

Updated March 31, 2020

The Pac-12 is facing a revenue hit of at least $1 million per school from the cancellation of its men’s basketball tournament and March Madness, although the full extent of the damage won’t be known for weeks.

 

Commissioner Larry Scott said Monday the conference’s expected distribution of $17.5 million from the NCAA this spring would be reduced by two-thirds, or about $11.5 million.

 

That mirrors the overall reduction: The association announced last week it would distribute $225 million this year, instead of the planned amount of $600 million, because of the shuttering of the NCAA tournament.

 

In addition, the Pac-12 had budgeted for approximately $4 million in ticket sales for the men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

 

With the refund policy in place — only opening-round games were played — that revenue stream is likely to evaporate fully.

 

But Scott said the financial damage caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak could be mitigated by future cost savings and business interruption insurance for the four-day tournament at T-Mobile Arena.

 

“It will take a couple of weeks to sort through the contracts and gain visibility on the insurance,” he said.

 

The total maximum loss of about $15.5 million for the conference equates to approximately 3% of the Pac-12’s revenue for the 2020 fiscal year, which should fall in the $500 million range.

 

“It’s not nothing,” Scott added, “but I don’t expect a significant financial impact on the members.

 

“Because of the fact that we got through the football season and the championship game and the bowl games and the (College Football Playoff) and the basketball regular season, the financial impact for the conference and schools won’t be as significant relatively as if we had not played football.”

 

He paused.

 

“The bigger issue is if the crisis is prolonged and it impacts football.”

 

Scott, who participates in daily conference calls with his fellow Power Five commissioners, said the conference will begin modeling scenarios for the upcoming football season.

 

The priorities to this point have been on immediate logistical matters and the welfare of the athletes, whose lives have been disrupted.

 

“There’s tremendous concern and anxiety,” Scott said. “Overnight, seven thousand student-athletes — with support structures in place, with coaches and academic support and rehab and strength and conditioning and mental-health support and shoulders to lean on — moved quickly to remote learning.

 

“There’s a lot of concern for their physical and mental well-being. There are a wide variety of home situations, and that’s weighing on everybody.”

 

The detachment will extend deep into the spring, at least:

 

The Pac-12 announced Monday the suspension of organized team events (practices, workouts, conditioning drills) has been extended through May 31, although the NCAA is allowing certain virtual activities.

 

Those include two hours per week of group film study for football players and four hours per week for all other athletes.

 

(The Pac-12 has appealed the football ruling to the NCAA, seeking an extension to four hours per week.)

 

The wording of the Pac-12’s policy on team activities was similar to those of other conferences, which Scott said is no coincidence.

 

His daily conference calls with the Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby, the Southeastern’s Greg Sankey, the Big Ten’s Kevin Warren and the Atlantic Coast’s John Swofford have allowed the conferences to “harmonize” their policies.

 

“No one is looking to gain a competitive advantage right now,” Scott said.

 

In addition to discussions with his Power Five peers, Scott participates in twice-a-week calls with NCAA officials and commissioners from all the Division I conferences.

 

He is also involved in daily calls with the Pac-12 campuses as coaches, athletic directors and other administrators sort through the challenges stemming from the shutdown.

 

“Larry has done a good job leading us through this and being responsive to everyone’s respective priorities,” a conference source explained. “He’s really facilitating rather than instructing.”

 

The daily agenda often includes formulating a conference-wide approach to the revamped calendar (recruiting, spring practice, virtual interaction with athletes) and updating members on several major pieces of NCAA legislation.

On Monday, the Division I Council approved an extra year of eligibility for spring-sports athletes, whose seasons were truncated by the COVID-19 shutdown.

The decision allows for increases in scholarship limits to account for current seniors who opt to return for competition in 2021.

Colorado athletic director Rick George is the conference’s representative on the Division I Council.

“Rick knew we wanted to be supportive of the seniors coming back,” Scott said.

The Council did not resolve two other momentous issues: immediate eligibility for first-time transfers and compensation for athletes for the use of their name, image and likeness.

Both issues are expected to be taken up later this spring.

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