Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff started his new position in May. Over the past four months there has been upheaval and realignment in rival conferences, NIL deals have begun, and reports suggest a potential conference alliance is on the horizon. The newest Power Five commissioner gave his thoughts on the first few months in a Q-and-A with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Throughout the interview, Kliavkoff answered questions about potential Pac-12 realignment and the future of college athletics.
The Pac-12 has remained at 12 members since 2011, when it added former Big-12 school Colorado and former Mountain West school Utah. Along with the move, the conference changed its name from the Pac-10 to the Pac-12, becoming the only Power Five conference to make the switch.
The 2011 was a part of massive realignment across college athletics which saw Texas A&M and Missouri join the SEC and Nebraska join the Big Ten.
A decade later, the Big 12 is fighting to prevent another mass exodus as Texas and Oklahoma prepare to join the SEC. The move sparked chatter across the sports world about more potential moves in the near future.
“I think we’re really, really happy with the 12 that we have in the league,” Kliavkoff told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The opportunity to revisit that following Texas and Oklahoma has certainly presented itself. I am not actively poaching any school or convincing anyone to leave their existing conference, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t listening to schools that wanted to go in the Pac-12, and we’ve had a lot of them reach out. Probably all of the ones you would expect and several you’d be surprised by.”
He continued: “We have taken initial meetings with everyone that has expressed an interest. We have a working group… who are together deciding on what to recommend… At the end of the day, they’ll make the decision about whether or not to offer admission to the Pac-12 to any other schools.”
Kliavkoff says the Pac-12 will make a decision about possible realignment within the “next couple of weeks” but added there is no hard deadline.
The future of college athletics
With NIL deals beginning to change the way coaches recruit and realignment on the horizon, the future of college athletics has become a murky subject. But Kliavkoff is not concerned.
“I think five years from now it’s likely to look a lot like it looks today, with some exceptions at the margins,” said Kliavkoff.
Media rights are another topic of interest for many conferences as they look to capitalize on the boom of streaming services while managing their cable network deals. The Pac-12 has a unique set-up compared to other Power Five conferences.
“Unlike the other Power Five conferences, we own 100% of our rights and 100% of our linear cable network,” Kliavkoff said. “I think the backward trends in media are actually operating in our favor. Every year, there are more consumers facing media-bundled services than ever. I think live sports are more valuable than ever.”
He continued: “Since we have the only Power Five teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, when we play a night game, we get paid handsomely for doing that because we’re filling a time slot no other Power Five conference can fill.”
The night slot does also have its disadvantages. The audience for night games is often lower because many fans on the East coast have already turned off their television. Another issues Kliavkoff is concerned about is the impact on AP voters and the CFP selection committee staying up to watch games.
“It costs us in national exposure and perhaps a competitive advantage for getting into the (College Football Playoff),” said Kliavkoff. “We’re going to have to balance all of that, but all media-rights negotiation is a balancing act.”