After a long search process, the Pac-12 has finally made their decision on who will be the conference’s new commissioner. Did they make the right choice?
Following the departure of former Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who had been the head of the conference since 2009, the hiring of his replacement was the most important decision the Pac-12 will ever have to make. The conference has been irrelevant in competition and financially at the bottom compared to the other conferences in the nation. New leadership was needed with a new perspective on approaches to improve the state of its 12 member schools.
On May 13, it was announced that George Kliavkoff will be the next Pac-12 Commissioner. You might be wondering who George Kliavkoff is. Trust me, all of us were wondering the same thing considering his name was never brought up in the rumor mill.
Kliavkoff has been the president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts International since 2018 and was previously a member of the WNBA’s Board of Governors, BetMGM and Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. His previous work experience also includes serving as executive vice president of business with MLB Advanced Media from 2003-06, the chief digital officer at NBCUniversal from 2006-08 and a board member and interim CEO at Hulu from 2007-08.
The concerning factor here is that Kliakoff has no experience with college athletics, which was the case with Larry Scott, and we all saw how that went. But with the current media rights deal expiring in the next few years, this hire may work out to set the conference up for future success.
The look of intercollegiate athletics may be changing drastically soon. As players are beginning to speak up more and want more power including the right to use their likeness for sponsors and other financial gains, Kliavkoff is up for the challenge.
“I am thrilled to be the Pac-12 Commissioner. This is a challenging time for intercollegiate athletics, but I believe these challenges also create significant opportunities,” Kliavkoff said in a statement. “I loved being a student-athlete, and I’m passionate about the doors that college sports and higher education open for young women and men. My job at the Pac-12 will be to help manage the balance between continued academic excellence, student-athlete well-being and an even higher level of athletic achievement.”
The official announcement came right after an NCAA basketball tournament where the Pac-12 had great success sending three teams to the elite eight and UCLA all the way to the final four. And while this was the momentum the conference needed, there is still lots of work to be done, especially with football.
First, Kliavkoff should be pushing heavily for a college football playoff expansion. The current format has only four teams — the smallest of any division one sport. There is no reason why the Pac-12 champion should not get a shot at the title. The new commissioner already made note about the topic in his introductory press conference.
“I want to go on the record: The Pac-12 is in favor of expansion of the College Football Playoff,” Kliavkoff said.
Considering they have lacked a massive amount of media exposure, being a part of the college football playoff would leave a huge impact on not only bringing in big-name recruits but also in building fan bases.
The next move I hope Kliavkoff makes is to move the conference headquarters out of San Francisco. This was just one of the horrendous moves made by Larry Scott. Due to Kliavkoff’s ties with the city, I expect that the headquarters will be moved to Las Vegas once their current lease is over. Making Las Vegas the home of the conference could be huge, as it would open many opportunities to partner with casinos as sports gambling becomes more popular and legal in many states.
Although I questioned the move at first, after doing more research on Kliavkoff and hearing from him during the introductory press conference, I can see this being a good move for the conference. My one remaining concern is his lack of experience in college athletics, but he seems well rounded enough that this hopefully will not be an issue.