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Scott ready for change, but no pay

Pac-12 commissioner doesn't support changing collegiate system for 'a very small sliver of athletes'

Posted: July 23, 2014 10:03 p.m.
Updated: July 23, 2014 10:03 p.m.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott delivers the opening remarks of the 2014 Pac-12 NCAA college football media days at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

 

HOLLYWOOD — Though it came on the backend of Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s opening statement at Pac-12 Media Day on Wednesday at Paramount Studios, his objection to the notion that student-athletes should be paid was a weighty statement.

“It would be a real shame from my perspective if the focus was on a very small sliver of athletes that fortunately are able to go on to be successful in professional football or professional basketball, and brings a radical solution that fundamentally changes the collegiate model and reduces access to the vast majority of student-athletes that are gaining this benefit,” Scott said.

Scott acknowledged that change of some sort is on the horizon, but not at the expense of blowing up the existing model, especially at the expense of women’s and Olympic sports that could suffer, he reasoned, from a vast overhaul.

Obviously an uncomfortable subject for student-athletes to address, a couple of players at Pac-12 Media Day gave their thoughts.

“That’s out of my control so I never really try and focus on it, so it’s just hard to talk about in the locker room. But at the same time it’s out of our reach, so we don’t focus on that,” said USC All-American defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

Former USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron said last year that he thought Williams would be a future first-round pick.

Williams would represent two percent of Pac-12 football players who Scott said are selected in the NFL Draft yearly and thereby represent a small portion of student-athletes who use their sport as a vehicle to be successful in the professional world.

“My focus is on the vast majority, that 97 or 98 percent of our student-athletes for whom this experience of being a student-athlete in the Pac-12 is transformative,” Scott said. “It’s providing access, providing opportunity, that’s going to allow them to be more successful in life than they would have otherwise. We have to do right for these student-athletes and not design a system around the 2 percent.”

Cal sophomore quarterback Jared Goff echoed Williams in that any change of the system wouldn’t be enacted for years, and thus, has less impact on the current college student-athlete.

“I think there are a lot of different opinions on it. Obviously I don’t think anything will ever be resolved before I finish my college career,” Goff said. “I don’t think anything will be figured out as far as unionization of players. I don’t think any of that will ever be resolved, so I don’t really concern myself with it as much as some people do.”

In March, National Labor Relations Board regional director Peter Sung Ohr ruled in favor of Northwestern scholarship football players’ ability to unionize and ruled they are employees of the university.

Northwestern appealed the decision and the case is expected to drag out until the end of the year.

“It’s just a big giant mess,” Goff said. “There are two sides to it. There’s the NCAA. There’s the players. There’s no solid. I don’t think there’s a perfect solution to it for both sides. There’s going to have to be some sort of compromise during the next few decades.”

Scott used another part of his address to say how much college football’s new playoff system will benefit the conference because strength-of-schedule is part of the criteria.

Nine Pac-12 teams qualified for bowl games last season and he gave UCLA’s Sept. 13 game against Texas at Cowboys Stadium as an example of a 2014 high-profile game involving a non-conference opponent.

Four teams will be chosen by a selection committee for a playoff. The teams will be chosen based off strength of schedule, head-to-head results, results against common opponents, championships won and “other factors.”

The selection committee is made up of an eclectic group of 13, including USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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