George Kliavkoff sat in a black, metal, high-top chair and fielded questions on Wednesday at Pac-12 Conference headquarters in downtown San Francisco.
Kliavkoff was positioned alongside deputy commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, the conference’s supervisor of men’s basketball. It was Media Day. Basketball was supposed to be the focus. But I tuned into the news conference via the Pac-12 Networks to see if there was anything new on the conference itself.
Will a new media rights deal get done in days? Months? Years?
“Somewhere in that range,” Kliavkoff answered.
Would it include a digital streaming service?
“I don’t see any scenario where we don’t end up streaming some of our games.”
Who are the expansion candidates?
“We’re not going to talk about specific candidates for expansion. I’m not going to get ahead of my board on that.”
Kliavkoff was intentionally vague and spoke in broad terms. Turns out, I can learn a lot more by simply calling around the conference.
Here’s what I know and think:
• The Pac-12 CEO Group will meet next week, per multiple sources. The conference’s remaining 10 presidents and chancellors are expected to drill down on the media-rights negotiations. It feels like a fork-in-the-road moment.
• I believe Amazon and ESPN are the most likely media partners for the Pac-12, but I’m told there could be a surprise third entity. Apple? Would that be a shock? Turner kicked the tires on college football early on. But would it choose the Pac-12 as the entry point? It’s also possible the third party is only being included at this point to foster some negotiating leverage. So there’s that.
• One conference AD forecasted “three to four weeks” as the media-rights timeline. Not to have a done deal, but to have clarity. That likely comes in the form of a binding sheet or letter of agreement. Final terms then get hammered out.
• Bob Thompson, the retired Fox Sports Networks president, told me recently that it’s much easier to get a media rights deal finalized when you’re simply renewing with existing partners. The complications come when you’re including a new entity and need to negotiate every detail.
• The Pac-12 is still holding out hope that UCLA will reverse course and stay in the conference. I think it’s an unlikely outcome. The UC Regents will meet Nov. 15-17 at UC San Francisco. The prevailing thought is that the regents may require UCLA to pay a subsidy to UC-Berkeley. Along with increased travel expenses and the cost of competing in the Big Ten, will it be enough to make the Bruins backtrack? We’ll see.
• George Kliavkoff was asked by a reporter from The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday how he’d expect to work cooperatively with UCLA if he “thwarted its wishes” to leave for the Big Ten Conference.
Kliavkoff said, “We’re not thwarting anyone’s wishes. It’s up to the regents. We’re just providing information as requested.”
• I find it interesting that the timeline for the UC Regents meeting and the “clarity” on the media rights front appear to coincide. Just me spitballing here. Anyone else find this interesting? It’s possible the Pac-12 has intentionally positioned the timeline. Perhaps because it wants UCLA to have concrete media-rights numbers in front of it when the UC Regents meet.
• Expansion or no? I’m not sold that the Pac-12 has to expand, but it sounds like the conference is exploring options. San Diego State makes sense. Maybe UNLV or SMU, too. I know Fresno State and Boise State would love to be included, but the Pac-12 CEO Group is likely to view them as dilutive. It’s why I keep thinking there’s a splashier expansion move out there.
Kliavkoff said: “We’re going to be looking at schools that makes sense for us.”
More as this develops…
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Hard to envision any splashy move. Even SDSU feels very "meh" aside from I guess get the San Diego TV market, but its pretty lame that seems to be the only driving factor in expansion this round. Maybe there is some bigger fish to be had but that would obviously require poaching from another P5 conference and the Big 12 is the only real option there. Honestly, none of the remaining Big 12 feels splashy either. I'd rather the conference stand pat and change the name back to Pac-10 honestly.
The best case scenario continues to be bringing UCLA back and adding SDSU. Short of that adding SDSU and holding at 11. There is no benefit in adding any of these others who you can schedule any time you want anyway.