New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is right to push for expansion
New Commissioner Geoge Kliavkoff Pac-12 gave his introductory Zoom press conference on Thursday in front of a multi-colored background that read the “Champions Conference” from top to bottom.
Kliavkoff, director of sports entertainment at MGM Resort, held regular talks with student athletes on how to create more exposure and opportunities. However, it was Kliavkoff who cut the core of why they hired him, and that’s what makes that background a reality in football and men’s basketball.
“Our biggest weakness, if we’re honest with ourselves, is that we’ve won a football or men’s basketball tournament,” Kliavkoff said. “We will do everything we can at the conference level to fix that.”
Kliavkoff wasted no time in making football a priority and took a precautionary charge within the Power 5 structure to regain the credibility of the conference.
“I want to point out in the record that the Pac-12 is in favor of extending the football playoffs of four College teams and establishing consistent name, image and similar guidelines,” Kliavkoff said. “We believe that CFP deployment and NIL legislation are good for college sports fans, good for student athletes, and a great competitive advantage for Pac-12.”
This mission will continue when he takes office on July 1, the same day NIL legislation will be enacted in at least six states. The push to expand the playoffs will help Kliavkoff push for a Pac-12 national football conversation and help determine whether this out-of-the-box lease will work at the conference.
Kliavkoff has a good track record with television and digital media, and will be a useful voice, as sports betting remains a topic of conversation within the sport.
This time, however, he has reached the knockout stages, as the Pac-12 factor has not been noticeable.
The Pac-12 has the fewest appearances in the CFP after two seasons. Oregon held its first CFP tournament game in 2014 before the Ohio State moved 42-20. Washington made the CFP in 2016 and lost 24-7 to Alabama. The four-year drought came, and the conference is just 1-4 on all six New Year’s Day boats. The .364 percent gain on NY6 vessels is the worst of the Power 5 conferences, and less than the .400 percent gain of the American Athletic Conference.
What is the low perception? When the hypothetical speaks of a University Football Super League SN’s proposal, which began a month ago, had only one Pac-12 school – USC – and the Trojans tightened their grip on Boise State For the 15th position. Of course, this legendary league isn’t happening, but it’s another statistical indicator of the low value of Pac-12 football.
How do you change that? Kliavkoff plans to meet with coaches and sports directors and mentioned the structural changes needed with the hiring and asked for help from the “Friends of Silicon Valley” conference. But the push for expansion is the top priority.
“I think it’s not good for college football – and for most college football fans – when 20 CFP offers 20 – 71 percent – go to four schools,” Kliavkoff said. “I’m taking a lesson in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Elite Eight teams are taking USC No. 6, UCLA No. 11 and Oregon State No. 12. We just need options.”
Having more exposure will also help. Pac-12’s contract with ESPN and Fox Sports will expire after the 2023 season, and it’s a good bet that Kliavkoff is leading at least one deal with the Big Ten and SEC trying to narrow the gap.
Pac-12 has tested creative oddities like ESPN’s Friday night games on ESPN and went on PT shots at 9 a.m. for a few games through the 2020 season that COVID has shortened. “Pac-12 After Dark” has a cult following and hashtag, but it’s for hard-core night football fans. The conference will take the Pac-12 tournament game to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for the next two seasons.
“Structurally, we need to address non-conference and conference scheduling, game times, and any other competitive decisions at the conference level,” Kliavkoff said. “Everything is there to review.”
Football needs to evolve from a “USC and all the others” mentality. The Trojans are tied with Stanford in the CFP era for a fourth-best Pac-12 record 56-29. Utah (58-27) and Washington (58-27) are tied for the best record, and Oregon (58-29) is close.
The Pac-12 can’t rest on the iconic USC, and that’s the challenge the SEC and Big Ten have negotiated despite dominating Alabama and Ohio State. How can Kliavkoff generate more interest in football to offer a national product on a national scale throughout the congress? Negotiated TV deals will play a role in this.
However, the basic starting point, as Kliavkoff put it, is “more options”. Stanford (sixth, 2015), USC (eighth, 2017) and Oregon (sixth, 2019) would be the knockout teams in eight team formats. Washington (ninth, 2018) and Oregon (ninth, 2021) would lose one point in the current format.
More appearances in the playoffs would mean more shooting for the national title, which would encourage more investment in conference football. The Pac-12 has played four national championship games four times in 23 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series. USC won its last appearance in 2004, but was later left empty-handed. The Trojans lost in 2005, and the Oregon in 2010 and 2014. This, along with Arizona winning the last men’s basketball tournament in 1997, is the reason Kliavkoff replaces Larry Scott.
There’s no doubt that Kliavkoff’s approach makes sense, and he knows where to start. Repeat the “Conference of Champions” tag in football.
For Pac-12, July 1 can’t come soon.