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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

May 26, 2014 at 8:30 PM

Numbers say it loud and clear: Pac-12 is in the chips

Just spent some time perusing the Pac-12′s Form 990 — its federal tax return — for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013. I can’t say it’s like reading a Stephen King novel, but there’s a wealth of interesting information in the newly released filing, especially if you weigh it in the broader perspective of where the conference has come in recent years.

Mostly, it’s a monument to what’s happened in the five-year regime of commissioner Larry Scott (who is being well-compensated for his efforts; more on that later).

USA Today had a good overview of the picture Friday.

This particular tax filing is sort of momentous for the Pac-12, because it’s the first one to include revenue from its combined $3-billion, 12-year deals with ESPN and Fox. It also coincides roughly with the first year of the Pac-12 Networks.

In that vein, the league’s gross revenues of $333,992,599 represents a 90.7-percent increase over the 2011-12 fiscal year’s revenues ($175.1 million). And the ’11-12 year was a jump of 63.5 percent over the 2010-11 reporting. (That particular leap was primarily due to the expansion addition of Utah and Colorado, plus the first Pac-12 championship football game.)

So in a mere two years’ time, the league has tripled its income from the $111.4 million reported in 2010-11.

Total distribution to the 12 members came to $228,242,349. In all cases except Utah, the number was in the high $19 millions (the Utes have a graduated payout from the league and realized $10.61 million from the conference in 2012-13).

That $19-million-plus is a big number, especially for some of the traditional have-not schools of the league. For instance, as recently as fiscal 2010-11, WSU realized $6,765,558 from the league (TV money without revenue sharing, bowl revenue, shared NCAA-tournament money). Two years later, that total jumped up by a little more than $13 million. In other words, WSU’s revenue from the league roughly tripled. (Cue up visual of athletic director Bill Moos, genuflecting at the altar of revenue-sharing.)

The percentage jump isn’t as dramatic for other schools in the league, but still, the increased cash has underwritten the boom in facilities improvements from Tucson to Pullman and Seattle to LA. In many cases, the new money has been spent far into the future.

Some other takeaways:

* Scott earned $3.3 million in the 2012 calendar year, some $900,000 of it in incentive bonuses. Only obliquely does the league pinpoint what those bonus thresholds are, calling them “performance-based and at the discretion of the (CEO) group’s executive committee.” He’s the highest-paid conference commissioner.

* Compare some of the salaries to the last year of Scott’s predecessor, Tom Hansen, who earned slightly less than $590,000 in calendar 2008, his last full year: In fiscal 2012-13, three others around Scott earned more than Hansen’s salary — ex-Pac-12 Networks president Gary Stevenson ($1,306,759), current Pac-12 Networks president Lydia Murphy-Stephans ($793,218) and Pac-12 Enterprises chief revenue officer Bill Cella ($790,507). Deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg was at $572,673, and two other high-level staffers were at $450,000-plus.

* Imagine how the revenue would increase if the Pac-12 could get together with DirecTV and its 20 million subscribers. That could happen now that AT&T has purchased DirecTV, but it’s off in the distance, if it comes about.

* As the USA Today story points out, the Pac-12 revenue numbers have outstripped those of the Big Ten and the SEC, but it’s something of a rotating distinction. The SEC TV Network launches in August, and the Big Ten, already having generated a lucrative TV network, is at the back end of the over-the-air TV cycle for college rights (its current contract ends after 2016), so its revenues will soon boom. The Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier, citing figures obtained from a Purdue document supplied by the Big Ten, quotes some $44.5 million due to come to each Big Ten school by the year 2017-18.

* Don’t think athletes’ advocates are oblivious to the cash numbers being thrown around. The unionization talk and athletes’ rights are topics that aren’t going away. And accordingly, nor will the move by the “Big Five” conferences to have greater control of their future.

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