Fifty years ago what has become the Pac 12 conference used to be pretty innovative in how they promoted the start of the conference football season. Sports writers from all over the region were flown in a jet chartered by the Pac 8 conference to take in a practice at every single school over an eight day period.
The tour allowed the writers to get an up close look at each program on the field. It also built relationships between the writers and the coaching staffs because the party started soon after practice. For the writers it was a week of serious content and hangovers. For the coaches it was the opportunity to loosen up, promote their team, and develop relationships with media.
The tour died because leadership at the newspapers and TV stations thought that the relationship was a little too cozy. If the league was paying for travel and accommodations they feared it was creating a conflict of interest. When the newspapers started picking up the tab the tradition continued for awhile but as advertising revenues dwindled the cost made the tour prohibitive.
Flash forward to 2010 and the major sports media in the country resides in New York and Los Angeles. The footprint of the nation has shrunk due to the electronic wiring of the country. Instead of the writers flying around to visit the Pac 10 is taking the coaches and top players directly to the top national and regional scribes.
Now that the New York version of the trip is finished the unanimous decision is this has been a great thing and why didn't anyone think of doing this before? Credit Oregon for thinking about Madison Avenue before anyone else in the conference did. The billboards in Times Square promoting the Ducks while drawing smirks where a great example of out of the box thinking.
Former Pac 10 Commissioner Tom Hansen didn't think out of the box. He was the last of an old guard which kept the conferences image stodgy and conservative over the last twenty-five years. Pac 10 media day became a progressive yawn under Hansen and it appeared that it would only be a matter of time until the participants just joined each other in a conference call rather than meeting together at a single venue.
Larry Scott gets it from a media perspective and that is why he was hired. He is doing all the groundwork necessary to make sure that the Pac 12 gets a fair share of national and regional tv revenue. Instead of sitting back waiting for the networks to come to him with an offer he is out beating the streets improving the visibility of the product before negotiations begin.
Scott won't get everything 100% right. There will be wins and losses along the way but the Pac 12 in only 12 months has gone from being the old Dodge mini van in the car port to being a marketing Ferrari that isn't afraid to take the game directly to the big boys on Madison Avenue.