An Interview With New Pac 12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff
Many of the Pac-12 conference eminencies – athletic directors and football coaches and top players – gathered at a Hollywood hotel on Tuesday to preview the upcoming season, which is set to begin when UCLA hosts Hawaii at the Rose Bowl. August 28. .
On football fields and in accounting offices, it was a grueling race for California’s most powerful college athletic conference. Although the league has seen star turns in both men’s and women’s basketball tournaments this year, the conference, which counts Cal, Stanford, UCLA and Southern California among its members, has not appeared in College Football. Playoff since 2016.
His payouts to his schools are among the lowest of major college sports. Its television network has yet to realize its ambitions of printing money. Its longtime commissioner, Larry Scott, was eager to talk about past successes or potential future triumphs, but, much to the chagrin of West Coast residents, he sometimes had very little to show for the present.
But Scott is no longer in charge. George Kliavkoff, who until recently was a senior executive at MGM Resorts International, resumed the conference earlier this month. We had a conversation this week. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve been in the job for about a month. What is your diagnosis for the Pac-12 so far?
I am very excited about the future of the Pac-12. I see a lot of really, really passionate people working in the league, as well as in each of the sports departments. I think people are excited about some kind of refresh, having nothing to do with me but just the desirability when all these issues come up at the same time for varsity athletics.
This week Oklahoma and Texas movements toward the Southeastern Conference are shaking the varsity sports snow globe. How many schools have you heard of maybe joining the Pac-12 during this round of conference realignment?
The Pac-12 have long wanted a bigger college football playoff, and a 12-team proposal is now on the table.
I wouldn’t say I was thrilled to see this proposal come out. I’m glad we’re talking about expanding college football playoffs because I think a system where only 3% of teams and athletes can play for a national championship is a flawed system. In most college sports, 18 to 25% of teams play for a championship in their sport, and we would obviously benefit from having more CFP places.
What I would say about the proposal is that it was developed over two years and did not include any input from the Pac-12, the Big Ten, or the ACC. Therefore, some natural considerations that would have been taken into account if we had been in the room were not verified.
There is a lot about the current proposal that we like. But there are also issues that need to be addressed before signing the proposal. I think the news about Texas and Oklahoma will delay this process.
You explained this week how, in the future, the conference will make all “football-related decisions with the combined objectives of optimizing CFP invitations and winning national championships”. What is it going to look like in reality?
The majority of successes on the football field or an undefeated season or a season with a loss fall on the schools. Which coach do you hire? What is your recruitment policy? All that.
On the sidelines – although these are significant margins – the conference can be influential and useful. I think these mostly boil down to a few issues like planning. Do we make late-season programming decisions that showcase teams or prioritize teams that have the best way to make a playoff invite happen? Rethinking the way we build our divisions so that we don’t have a three-losing team playing against an undefeated team in our league?
Every decision we make at the conference is subject to discussion. There are no sacred cows.
Athletic directors have all individually agreed to move away from parity and focus on invitations to playoffs and championships, even understanding that their individual schools might be at a disadvantage in a particular year or week, but realizing that it is. important for the conference to be back in the playoffs and win championships.
The Pac-12 network did not meet expectations. Can you imagine a time when the league could just say, “This has been a debacle, and we’re going to do it all?” Or do you still see it as a long-term game for the conference?
I think it is unfortunate and unfair to call the network a debacle. What is true with the network is that it produces amazing content, and it produces a lot of it. They produce 850 live events; the next closest conference-owned network produces a little over 500 events, and the next one exceeds a little over 400, so we’re outperforming our competition and producing content.
What’s missing – and I think we need to be transparent – is that we don’t have the distribution we need. Agreements were made, unfortunately, during the first distribution of this network, which include financial clauses that make it almost impossible to extend the distribution of this network before all these rights are renegotiated in 2024.
Your predecessor was the highest paid college sports commissioner and earned over $ 4 million a year. How much do you earn?
I think we need to disclose this publicly in a year from now, and I see no benefit in disclosing this until when it needs to be disclosed. Thanks for asking.
The league office was in Walnut Creek. Then the conference moved to San Francisco and spent more on rent than other conferences. Thinking of moving the office?
It’s a very expensive lease in downtown San Francisco. We have two years left on the lease and an option for a third year. I don’t know if we will stay in San Francisco, but what I can tell you is that we will save money when we do a new lease compared to what we spend today. This is important to me because every dollar we make in additional profit is a dollar that I distribute to schools that they can use for the health and well-being of student-athletes and for scholarships.
The NCAA got punch in the nose a lot lately, and some would say he got hit quite often.
Its chairman, Mark Emmert, talks about to be able to decentralize in college sport. What is the future of the association?
I tried very hard to understand and asked to be briefed on the structures of the NCAA, and I still cannot understand why it is structured this way. It’s very complicated.
As a businessman who looks from the outside in, it seems to me that voters work in very different companies. For example, I think an athletics department in a Division III school uses a different model than a Division I athletics department. Even within Division I, schools that have football operate a different business than those which do not. And even within schools that have football, Power 5 conferences operate under a different business model than the Group of 5.
I think it’s likely that in addition to decentralization and some of the things the NCAA controls today that are pushed to conferences and teams, I think there will be a structure where there isn’t no monolith on all these different business models.
Is there anything else we should be thinking about at the start of your term?
What should we not think about?
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley, and has reported statewide, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow here or on Twitter.
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