Canzano: George Kliavkoff will face the music at Pac-12 Media Day
He shouldn't be on stage alone, should he?
The Novo theater in Los Angeles has some very cool acts on the schedule. Brian McKnight and Lupe Fiasco will play the venue in coming months. But the headliner on Friday at Pac-12 Conference Media Day will be George Kliavkoff.
I’m dying to see his performance.
Said one conference insider: “It’s George’s stage.”
I just wish the conference commissioner was sharing it with his bosses. The Pac-12 CEO Group is comprised of a dozen presidents and chancellors of the respective universities. They hold the votes and make the decisions, but what they don’t often do is step up and speak out. I’d like to hear from them more often on matters relating to the conference.
Kliavkoff’s speech will be the most anticipated and attended in the history of the conference’s annual football hype-fest. If he wants to win it, he’ll need to do more than cast a strong presence. He’ll need to get candid and share his vision.
Last month, the Pac-12 got ditched by UCLA and USC, tentpoles of the very market that Friday’s event is held in. The conference is now in crisis-management mode, seeking a path forward while engaged in a 30-day negotiating window with ESPN and Fox.
Blame Kliavkoff for the splintering of the Pac-12?
I guess. He was the commissioner of record when the Big Ten poached two key properties. But as one current athletic director told me, “What is George supposed to do when USC lies to his face?”
The troubles for the Pac-12 were born well before Kliavkoff’s first 365 days on the job. The presidents and chancellors who enabled and tolerated the act of ex-commissioner Larry Scott hold a large share of the blame. He overspent, failed to adequately position the Pac-12, and got lapped by the SEC and Big Ten in the race for media-rights dollars.
Scott put the Pac-12 on a perilous path, while sipping a glass of Dom Pérignon on a chartered flight. But the presidents and chancellors who hired Scott and left him unsupervised for a decade are equally culpable. Many of them are long gone, though. Only UCLA’s Gene Block and Arizona State’s Michael Crow are still around. I’d love to hear an explanation from that duo on Friday.
Being a commissioner isn’t easy business. But as Don Draper once famously ranted, “That’s what the money’s for!” Kliavkoff will be paid well to stand out front on Friday and absorb the hit that his predecessor and those university presidents lined up for him.
Kliavkoff likes a good scrap. One of his staff members who observed him jousting with a reporter in March at the Pac-12 basketball tournaments told me that the commissioner likes to mix it up. He’ll get his shot on Friday. The Pac-12 has been knocked down and dragged around the ring in the last few weeks. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren broke the so-called “alliance” with a secret haymaker blow. Kliavkoff’s job now is to get himself up off the canvas and punch back.
Why the Pac-12 didn’t deviate from this path years ago is puzzling. Navigate — a data and consulting firm that contracts with major college conferences — published a report in March that laid it all out.
It projected the Pac-12’s total media rights payouts to members would eclipse the Big 12’s by 2026. Great news for the Pac-12, but the chart also noted the surging revenue of the SEC and Big Ten. It was a giant, waving, red flag. One that had been waving in the Pac-12’s face for several years.
This is the trajectory Kliavkoff inherited. If you’re spinning the circumstances positively, it’s evident that the new commissioner has an opportunity to come up with new, innovative ideas that close the gap. If you’re spinning negative, you have to wonder, is it too late?
I suspect this will be the last Pac-12 Media Day held in Los Angeles. I think Las Vegas is a good bet to host the event in future. Kliavkoff still lives there and is well connected. He referred to it as “the sports capital of the world” last March.
The Novo is a fine venue. It will have two stages, one for Pac-12 players and the other for coaches. They’ll speak all day. But Kliavkoff will make the opening remarks. He’ll be alone up there. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.
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Thanks. John, for this very thorough and informative discussion of what's been wrong with the way the heads of the PAC 12 colleges have functioned with the Commissioner. It's too bad only two are still around. The other 10 should have to face the music for their failures.
You cannot be up front and candid when you are in the midst of confidential negotiations. (You don't show your hand when you play cards). It would be nice if the behind the scenes dialogues could produce tangible results that could be made public. And bashing USC/UCLA doesn't win any points either. I am sure he will take the high ground, but show his determination to keep the PAC 10 solvent.