Against a backdrop of empty seats, Fox Sports Net's presentation of the Pac-10 tournament is again so lifeless and uninspiring that you ache for Duke highlights narrated by Dick Vitale.
This is Year 9 of the Pac-10 tournament as operated by Staples Center and Fox Sports Net, and it still doesn't work. There is no charm, no buzz, no collegiate atmosphere.
There was a better atmosphere at Tim's Toyota Center at the state high school playoffs.
If you have watched the Mountain West tournament - live from Las Vegas! - you know what I mean. Those games actually seem important. Unlike all-conference sourpusses Miles Simon and Don MacLean, the analysts at The Mountain don't rehearse how to smile.
Who will Fox next hire to chat about Pac-10 hoops, Tim Floyd?
The most optimistic information gathered from Thursday's snoozefest was that Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was seen on camera, allegedly blowing dust off some unused seats.
In eight months on the job, Scott has become the real Pac-10 Player of the Year. He is the one man powerful enough to deliver the league from its soulless basketball tournament and make you want to watch, or better yet, buy a ticket and attend.
He is the world-class marketer we trust will drag the tournament out of the morgue in downtown Los Angeles and send it on a long and wonderful road trip to Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix and Portland.
He is the image-conscious leader we believe will blow up the league's affiliation with Fox Sports and align the Pac-10 with a network committed to a first-class presentation, or, barring that, create the league's own network.
After all these years, Fox Sports failed to hire an authentic, national-level first team to call Pac-10 games, steal a recognizable face or two away from ESPN or CBS, and avoid opening the Pac-10's daily events with mystery guest hosts such as Michael Eaves.
They treat it like the West Coast Conference.
Because of the action Scott has taken in the last two months, I am encouraged about the direction of Pac-10 basketball and football and the stage upon which they will be played. I don't think Scott will be willing to roll along in the Pac-10's customary role as a modest under-achiever.
Unless you have been reading the small print, the daily sports transactions, you probably missed the Pac-10's growth from a Ma and Pa corner grocery to full-blown corporate behemoth.
As a front man who will likely be the face and voice of the league on a day-to-day basis, Scott hired as deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg, who was a former Big 12 commissioner who later was instrumental in formation of the Big Ten Network. What can he do? Improve the Pac-10's television presence and revenue, and execute expansion plans.
From the NBA, Scott hired Danette Macri Leighton, a UA alumna, as the league's chief marketing officer. Can you believe the league has not had a chief marketing officer? Leighton once ran the women's Final Four and directed the sports marketing arm of Sony. What can she do? Operate a more entertaining and profitable Pac-10 basketball tournament.
From the NFL, Scott hired Woody Dixon as the league's vice president of business affairs and general counsel. It is a position unprecedented in the Pac-10.
Dixon said Scott is "driving the transformation of the Pac-10."
Indeed. The league needed to be transformed.
From professional tennis, Scott hired Ron McQuate as vice president of finance. McQuate's background includes front-office time at Sony Ericsson, a giant in the world of sports sponsorship.
From the Oklahoma Sooners, Scott hired senior associate commissioner Gloria Nevarez, who will be in charge of men's and women's basketball. Here's what she said about him:
"Larry Scott and the new leadership team are injecting a level of excitement and ambition that promises to take the conference to an even higher level of performance."
Those two words - ambition and excitement - have seldom been connected to the Pac-10's front office. Until now, it has been a good-old-boys network operating profitably and often successfully, but rarely tapping its financial potential.
Scott probably took on additional payroll in excess of $1 million annually to hire Dixon, Nevarez, McQuate, Weiberg and Leighton. It is money that needs to be spent to find a way to get the league into a financial class with the Big Ten and Big 12, both of whom have annual revenues about $100 million more than the Pac-10.
So don't expect the same old Pac-10 much longer.
Don't expect languid Barry Tompkins as the television voice of the league. Don't expect the old familiar Thursday-Saturday basketball schedule, or Saturday-only football games.
By 2012 or thereabouts, the Pac-10 tournament - live from Portland! - might be more entertaining than Lehigh-Lafayette.
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or email@example.com