Big 12 ‘scared’, UCLA in a tough spot, Pac-12 could expand

LOS ANGELES – It took Commissioner George Klyavkov exactly six minutes and 45 seconds to acknowledge the woolly mammoth in the room Friday during his State of the Conference address at the annual Pac-12 season media event.

When the time came, Klyavkov did this by taking off his gloves and not pulling punches.

He said the conference was “extremely frustrating” as the USC and UCLA are leaving for the Big Ten but he outlined the Pac-12’s strategy moving forward and turned brawler during the question-and-answer session.

Kliavkoff did not name names but noted that Pac-12 is actively exploring expansion.

He noted that the conference could play “a lot” of soccer games in Los Angeles in the future, even without the Bruins and the Trojans.

He noted that the upcoming media rights deal for the conference is “highly likely” to include a major digital media company.

“We are in the enviable position of being next to the market after the Big Ten,” he said.

“We already have significant interest from potential partners, including both incumbents, new traditional TV and most importantly, digital media partners. This interest is driven by the strength of our schools’ brands and markets and the recognition of our continued leadership position in college football across western and mountain time zones.” .

Kliavkoff also said UCLA is in a “really tough position” regarding its jump to the top ten, apparently leaving open the possibility of a Bruins not having a move.

“There are a lot of voters associated with UCLA who are very, very, very unhappy with the decision,” he said. “Student-athletes, student-athletes families. Faculty and staff. Politicians, fans, alumni. There are a lot of people who are really bothered by this decision…

“I think it’s unlikely. But if they come back, we welcome them back.”

But Kliavkoff saved his sharp arrows for the Big 12.

When asked about new commissioner Brett Yormark’s recent comments that Big 12 is “open for business,” Kliavkoff replied:

“And I appreciate it. We have not decided whether or not to go shopping there.”

A minute later, Zinger explained.

“That remark was a reflection of the fact that I spent four weeks trying to defend against grenades being thrown from every corner of the Big 12 in an attempt to destabilize our remaining conference.

“I understand why they’re doing this, when you look at the relative value of media between the two conferences. I understand, I understand why they’re afraid, why they’re trying to destabilize it. I’m tired of it. It’s probably not the most collective thing I’ve ever said.”

The tone of the notes reflected what Klyavkov feels is a waning sense of camaraderie between conferences as media money drives reorganization decisions. These decisions, in turn, have pushed weaker leagues into difficult situations and threaten resources for athletes.

Referring to college sports in general, he said, “We have collectively lost sight of the student-athlete. We need to recalibrate our approach to make sure that our filter for any decision is in their best interest.”

Other highlights from Kliavkoff’s title:

– Klyavkov said that the process of signing the New Media Rights Agreement, which is critical to the conference’s long-term stability, could take “months”.

That comment, along with his comment on Pac-12 receiving interest from digital media companies, indicates that the conference will not sign with ESPN or Fox during the exclusive 30-day negotiation window, which ends in early August.

– When asked if the USC misled the conference about its commitment, Klyavkov said: “I will not talk about it. We will take the highway and not talk about what happened in the past.”

Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir, who joined Kliavkoff on stage, has spoken out about speculation about the Cardinal being a target of the Big Ten.

“When this erupted a month ago, we were all, every single one of us, trying to come up with a scenario layout,” Muir said. We have internal discussions and are trying to find out. But we didn’t get any official offer from another conference.”

Klyavkov declined to specify which schools could be targets for Pac-12 expansion but did set a broad set of criteria, which include competitive success, media rights value, and academic, geographic, and institutional suitability.

– Regarding USC and UCLA staying in the conference for two years, he said:

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