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Coliseum Lease: The Commission Tries New PR Tactics

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Who said that the Coliseum Commission can't change their ways? After some pissing and moaning about how USC has made proposal documents publicly available, the Coliseum Commission released a letter going on the offensive about USC's most recent proposal. In essence, the Commission is making the claim that USC makes too much money to be nit-picking about rent prices and should be under-writing more of the costs of improvement. They're also outright accusing the University of using a four year schedule for improvements as a back-door entry to take over the Coliseum at below-market costs - market costs being whatever proportion of USC's football revenue over 50 years that the Commission thinks they should get, apparently.

Paragon and I have noted before that plainly both sides are going to have to genuinely move on certain issues for a result to happen, but it's hard for me to believe that the Commission has any grasp at all of how to make concessions that don't involve hot dogs. In order to do that, they would have to show an iota of awareness about what's driving USC's proposals.

Not to put too fine a point on it, when it comes to capital investments that would undo years of deferred maintenance at the Coliseum, the Commission has shown that they couldn't organize a piss-up at a brewery, or an orgy at a brothel. This is why there's a proposed schedule for improvements: if USC signs a lease with no performance standards for improvement, there will be no improvements, because the Coliseum will be poor-mouthing their way to doing nothing. As usual.

As for USC's revenue off football, it's a red-herring. Pissing and moaning that a tenant doesn't want to spend their money on activities that are the responsibility of the landlord makes me wonder if the Commission actually understands the basic tenets of leasing property. The Commission can refuse to drop the rents or to split concessions revenue and that's fair, but they don't have a legal or even principled claim to that football revenue. If playing in the Coliseum was what drove USC's football revenue, the place wouldn't have been half-empty in the 90s - it's the results on the field that matter.

Long story short, USC's football revenues are immaterial to this discussion beyond the University's ability to make the lease payments and raise funds to pay for stadium improvements. If the Commission can't understand that the four year timetable is an effort to make sure that they actually do something, then I despair of their ability to resolve the current impasse.

It's really very simple: agree on the right lease price, agree on the right schedule for improvements, agree on the right way to split the costs of improvements, and agree on the right level of accountability. Here's hoping that the Commission is just doing some PR posturing, and that they aren't so utterly inept, amateur, and useless as to not grasp what's going on.