Commissioner George Klyavkov – Pac-12 steady despite leaving USC and UCLA

LOS ANGELES – After weeks of speculation about the future of the Pac-12 in the wake of decisions by the USC and UCLA to leave for the Big Ten, Conference Commissioner George Kliavkov has responded by confirming that the league is on unstable ground.

“We are optimistic about the future of the Pac-12 and our prospects for long-term growth, stability and success,” Kliavkoff said at Friday’s PAC-12 media briefing. “Our conference features 10 of the most iconic and innovative brands in all of sports, overall excellence in academics and athletics and half a dozen of the most valuable markets in this country.”

Several remaining Pac-12 schools were mentioned as potential expansion targets for the Big Ten and Big 12, and comments from both conference delegates only fueled the idea. Asked about the possibility of adding Pac-12 schools earlier this month, Big 12’s Brett Yormark said the conference is “open for business.”

That didn’t sit well with Kliavkoff, who pointed out the unspecified expected value of media rights Pac-12 compared to Big 12 and dismissed the idea that Big 12 was a more desirable location.

“In terms of Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate it,” Klyavkov said. We haven’t decided whether to go shopping there or not. “

Klevkov’s blow came during a question-and-answer session in which he spoke of his desire for more camaraderie among his peers. But he also wasn’t about to leave what was said elsewhere unanswered.

“I spent four weeks trying to defend against grenades being thrown from every corner of the Big 12, trying to destabilize our remaining conference,” Klyavkov said. “And I understand why they are doing this. When you look at the relative value of the media between the two conferences, I understand it. I understand why they are afraid. I understand why they are trying to destabilize us, but I was just tired of it.”

Kliavkoff said that Pac-12 is actively exploring expansion opportunities and has prioritized “media value, athletic strength, and academic, cultural and geographic relevance” for potential additions.

He did not specify any specific schools, but given the criteria set, San Diego State appears to be the most likely school the convention will target.

“Southern California is really important to us, and I think there are different ways to approach staying in a part of Southern California,” Kliavkov said. “We might end up playing a lot of football in Los Angeles.”

Pac-12 is in an exclusive 30-day negotiating window with current media partners ESPN and Fox over the next media rights deal, but Kliavkoff doesn’t expect to finalize anything for at least two months. The most likely scenario is that the rights to first-tier football for the conference will remain on Line TV, while another piece will be sold to a digital partner such as Amazon or Apple. The future of the Pac-12 network beyond the next two seasons is unclear.

Kliavkoff told ESPN he was “very confident” that the Pac-12 would be solid in the middle of the Power 5 conferences on a per-school distribution basis, but he wasn’t prepared to share the scale he expects to be valuable.

UCLA and USC announced on June 30 that they would be leaving for the Big Ten in 2024 after nearly a century as core members of what eventually became known as the Pac-12.

Klyavkov said the conference was “deeply disappointed” by the impending USC and UCLA departures.

“However, the USC and UCLA have been proud of the Pac-12 members for nearly a century, despite their decision,” he said. “We cherish our relationship with student-athletes, coaches, staff, faculty, alumni, and fans. For this reason, I personally directed everyone at our conference to make sure that UCLA and UCLA student-athletes get every chance to compete and succeed as long as they stay in the Pac-12 “.

Asked about the possibility of schools reversing course and staying in Pac-12, Kliavkoff wouldn’t rule it out for UCLA, which has faced public criticism from the California governor. Gavin Newsom for his handling of the schism.

“I would say UCLA is in a really difficult situation,” Klyavkov said. “There are a lot of voters associated with UCLA who are very, very, very unhappy with the decision. Student-athletes, student-athletes families, faculty, staff, politicians, fans, alumni, there’s a lot of really, really upset people with this decision and there’s a hearing coming up. [with the UC board of regents] about this decision.

“I can’t give you a percentage chance. I think it’s unlikely, but if they come back we’d welcome them back.”

At his briefing Friday, Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards spoke about the issue of the changing nature of the Pac-12 and the college games themselves, noting that the very landscape paradigm is undergoing a major shift, something he credits with the big power. of TV money.

“How can your conference make money? Television,” he said, adding that increasing television revenue “will help you save money for student athletes.”

“You have to offer not only a scholarship,” he continued. “It’s a little more than it might be… You have to do it. And how do you do it? You have to generate money.”

Also on Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that USC President Carol Wohlt “shut down” potential Pac-12 expansion plans during a call with Pac-12 college presidents and athletic directors last year.

ESPN’s Paolo Augeti contributed to this report.

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