Pac-12 Announces George Kliavkoff as New Commissioner
A hire that seems confusing at first, but makes a lot of sense when you dig down into it.
We’ve known for a good amount of time that the Larry Scott era was winding down soon. Now, we know what will be replacing it.
Reports leaked, with Ralph D. Russo of the AP being the first to report the news, of a hire being made for the position, and the Pac-12 Conference made it official shortly after that George Kliavkoff had been hired as the new conference commissioner.
On its face, this is a head-scratching move. Kliavkoff has been the president of entertainment and sports at MGM Resorts International for the past few years and has no prior college athletics experience, with his experience instead coming in the media business. But digging a little deeper, the hire begins to make sense, as Kliavkoff has a wealth of experience working with digital media, having been chief digital officer at NBCUniversal for a few years and serving as a board member and interim CEO at Hulu as well. The line on his resume that excites me the most is his time in charge of MLB’s Advanced Media group because MLBAM has been at the forefront of streaming media since its inception.
There are a lot of issues plaguing the conference right now, but in hiring Kliavkoff, the university presidents seem to have focused on one particular issue as the biggest hindrance: media rights. Kliavkoff has experience dealing in this field and I have to assume the hope here is that by fixing these issues and getting much more money flowing to each athletic department, the conference can begin to climb its way out of the hole its dug itself into. It’s not an unreasonable path to take by any stretch.
It probably helps that Kliavkoff is likely familiar with the conference to some extent. MGM Resorts International’s holdings include the T-Mobile Center, which has hosted the Pac-12 basketball tournaments, and MGM has been a major advertiser for the conference, helping to bring the football title game to Las Vegas as well. In fact, I have to assume Kliavkoff will look to move conference operations out of its expensive offices in the Bay Area and into the much cheaper Las Vegas metroplex, which would immediately save the conference a ton of money.
Still, for all the good this hire potentially represents, the fact that Kliavkoff does not have any prior college athletics experience does stick out like a sore thumb. It is not a dealbreaker, but as we saw with Larry Scott prior, that lack of experience can lead you to make decisions that are not in the best interest of the schools you represent. This does seem like a great opportunity for the various athletic directors in the conference to step in and take a more active role in conference management, especially if you happen to be an AD of a program in Los Angeles. Seriously, though I am loathe to admit it, both Martin Jarmond and Southern Cal AD Mike Bohn should be among the first calls that Kliavkoff makes, and both of them should have a ton of input in the direction the conference goes in.
In any case, the best we can do is wish George Kliavkoff the best in this new job, and hope he can do better than Larry Scott did. It’s a low bar, but it is hopefully one he can clear.
Kliavkoff’s contract runs for five years. No financial details have been released yet. Of course, the Pac-12 has issued a press release on the hire.