2022 Pac-12 Media Day: Notes and quotes from commissioner George Kliavkoff
LOS ANGELES — Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff kicked off 2022 Pac-12 Media Day Friday morning with a half-hour press conference wherein he addressed conference realignment and the impending departures of USC and UCLA, along with several other topics.
Here are the most notable tidbits from that conversation:
>> During his opening statement, Kliavkoff said that while he wanted to express optimism over the future of both the industry and the Pac-12, he feels that “collectively we have lost sight of the student-athlete.”
He wants to see an overhaul of the way NIL is legislated. Kliavkoff said he views treating student-athletes as employees as “detrimental” to college athletics. He said it’s clear financial decisions are the primary driver of athletics, but thinks the long-term viability of college athletics rests on the ability to “support the largest number of student-athletes while still facilitating competitive between schools and conferences.” Kliavkoff cautioned against an environment were a small collection of schools in two conferences were playing pseudo-professional sports at the expense of the rest of the country.
“A singular focus on money will certainly cause more harm than good.”
>> Kliavkoff also addressed USC and UCLA’s impending move to the Big Ten during his opening statement, saying the league was “very disappointed” in the decision but will still “cherish” the relationship with the two programs. Kliavkoff said he personally instructed each of the remaining schools to respect the student-athletes at USC and UCLA over the next two seasons.
Kliavkoff described the league’s view of its future as “bullish.”
>> Media rights negotiations will take “months” to complete, Kliavkoff said. The league is currently in a 30-day exclusive negotiating window with ESPN and FOX that is set to expire on Aug. 4. Kliavkoff said their next deal likely won’t come until after the Big Ten’s deal has been wrapped up.
The Pac-12, he said, has interest from incumbent media partners as well as new traditional media and digital media partners. He said it’s very likely the league has a large piece of its media rights with a digital media partner.
“We will be very well-positioned among the Power Five from a revenue-per-school standpoint,” he said.
>> Asked about the Big 12’s comment that it is ‘open for business,’ Kliavkoff shot back.
“I appreciate that. We haven’t decided if we’re going shopping there yet or not,” he said.
The Pac-12 is actively exploring expansion opportunities, Kliavkoff said. Asked about a potential merger with the Mountain West, Kliavkoff said that wasn’t an option they’ve looked at.
>> It was abundantly clear Kliavkoff is fed up with what he feels are attempts by the Big 12 to destabilize the Pac-12.
“I’ve been spending four weeks trying to defend against grenades being lobbed from every corner of the Big-12 trying to destabilize our conference,” he said. “I get why they’re trying to destabilize us.”
There were subtle and veiled shots across the bow, sent by Kliavkoff all across the sport, but the league commissioner held nothing back when discussing the Big 12.
>> Asked if UCLA or USC could back out of the Big Ten move, Kliavkoff said he thinks UCLA is in a tough position because constituents—namely politicians and student-athlete parents—are “very, very unhappy” with the decision to move to the Big Ten. While he thinks it’s unlikely UCLA backs out of the move, he said the Bruins would be welcomed back.
>> Could the Pac-12 regain a footing in Southern California even after the departures of USC and UCLA?
“We may end up playing a lot of football games in L.A.,” he said.
>> Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir said “We have not had any formal overture from another conference.” The Cardinal has been linked to the Big Ten.