Canzano: Betting the Pac-12 Conference will build its empire in Las Vegas
Pac-12 CEO Group meets today to discuss relocating headquarters.
The Pac-12 Conference headquarters has been located in downtown San Francisco since 2011.
LAS VEGAS — The chancellors and presidents of the Pac-12 Conference universities will gather today along with commissioner George Kliavkoff in a secluded meeting space at the Park MGM Hotel and Casino.
Among the agenda items for the Pac-12 CEO Group: The relocation of the conference headquarters.
The offices and television network of the conference are currently located on two floors in a downtown San Francisco commercial building.
Rent paid over the last 11 years: $92 million.
The Big Ten spent less than $15 million on its Chicago-based headquarters during the same period. The SEC, which has a sweetheart deal with a booster, only pays $1 a year for its offices in Birmingham, Ala.
The SEC’s motto: “It just means more.”
Should be: “It costs less.”
I think the Pac-12 will soon vote to move to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is easy to access to from the various Pac-12 campuses.
It’s already the host site of the conference’s championships in football and basketball.
Office space is far more affordable than the Bay Area or Los Angeles. City officials in Las Vegas will also woo the conference with breaks and subsidies in much the same way it did with the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball.
Kliavkoff is a central figure in all of this, of course. The 55-year old previously worked in Las Vegas as the MGM Resorts president of entertainment and sports and sat on the board of BetMGM, one of the largest sports-wagering companies on the planet.
Nobody will forget the excesses of Kliavkoff’s predecessor, Larry Scott. A couple of years ago during this same week of basketball and meetings Scott bunked in the $7,500-a-night SkyVilla hotel suite at Aria.
This week I asked Kliavkoff where he was staying.
“Are you kidding?” he shot back. “I’m sleeping at my house.”
No charge to the Pac-12.
I like Kliavkoff’s work, so far. I think he’s intelligent, experienced, connected and has big-city ideas. I also think — down deep — he’s a fighter who isn’t afraid of a good scrap. His preferred weapon in a debate is more scalpel than sledgehammer, but I suspect he’s not afraid to use either.
He sparred some with media this week and one of his staff members commented afterward, “I think George enjoys it.”
Kliavkoff is here for the meetings and the men’s and women’s conference tournaments. But he was questioned during a news conference about his College Football Playoff expansion strategy. The Pac-12 voted “no” in the most recent vote, standing in alliance with the Big Ten and ACC.
“So as far as I'm concerned, the time to publicly talk about the CFP is now over,” Kliavkoff said. “I think the next piece of work that needs to be done is we need to get in the room and figure out what the expanded playoffs look like. Unless I'm forced to publicly talk about it, the next time I talk about the CFP will be to announce what our new format looks like.”
Who wouldn’t want that guy on their side? Also, why wouldn’t the Pac-12 want to leverage his deep Las Vegas connections and parlay that into lucrative opportunities?
Said University of Oregon president Michael Schill: “He’s just the right person to lead us through this extremely challenging period.”
Las Vegas has positioned itself as a sports destination. It pried the Raiders from Oakland, launched the NHL’s Golden Knights, is in pursuit of MLB and NBA franchises, and hosted 10 different college basketball tournaments within a walk of The Strip in the last two weeks.
“There's more than 100 college basketball games in this town,” Kliavkoff said. “I've been fortunate to go to a couple of games that were not part of our tournament over the last couple of days, and it just is becoming the sports capital, and I think people are realizing that.”
That $92 million spent in the last 11 years on rent meant less money for each of the conference members. Also, that expense became a morale issue for those trying to make budgets work on the campuses, particularly during a pandemic.
Said one sitting athletic director: “We all could have used that revenue.”
The Pac-12 needs a new home. Everyone can see that. Las Vegas feels like the right city. The only question is whether the presidents and chancellors might consider splintering off the Pac-12 Network and putting a small studio and satellite office in the Bay Area, Phoenix or Southern California, where larger pools of available television-world contractors reside.
Kliavkoff wouldn’t go there when I asked about it. But he did tell me this week, “We've actually started negotiations.”
He wouldn’t say much more.
Didn’t have to.
The answer was beneath his feet.