The Big Ten hired Kevin Warren in 2019. The SEC hired Greg Sankey in 2019. The ACC hired Jim Phillips this year. The Big 12 has had Greg Bowlsby since 2012, which makes him the dean of the Power Five schools.
And on Thursday, the PAC-12 finally found its new commissioner, hiring George Kliavkoff away from MGM, largely because of his impressive history with media companies and, surely, his experience with digital media.
We can’t prove this, but it’s a reasonable bet that Kliavkoff has more experience with digital media than any other commissioner. It’s hard to imagine how he could not.
His predecessor, Larry Scott, has driven PAC-12 people crazy for years with his arrogance and an unusual ability to put the conference into various unwanted boxes.
Scott, remember, thought it was better to own the PAC-12 network outright, rather than partnering with ESPN or anyone else. The PAC-12 has found it very tough to get on DirecTV or to get any national exposure and it’s largely Scott’s fault.
Kliavkoff has the right skill set to change that and possibly in a big way.
What he doesn’t have though, and what’s going to be interesting to watch, is how he deals with the broader universities.
For instance, he was introduced at Sun Devil Stadium, which we can promise you didn’t go over well in Tucson, and he said, quite honestly, that football and men’s basketball were the “bread and butter” that he would focus on.
He might have emphasized women’s sports, which would have been smart not least of all after the NCAA’s March fiasco, and if he said anything about academics we missed it. The PAC-12 might have competitive issues athletically but not academically. Some of those schools are world-class and presumably run the athletic departments and not the other way around.
He’s moving into a very different world than the business environment he’s used to and we expect he’ll find some serious challenges as he adapts.
Even so it’s an intriguing hire. If he is, first of all, not Larry Scott, he’ll be off to a solid start. If he can also bring his vast entertainment knowledge to the PAC-12 while negotiating a completely alien environment to what he’s been used to, he might end up being a tremendous commissioner.
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