Canzano: Pac-12 proves it can save money and value people at the same time
Conference abandons SF headquarters.
I don’t know what your overhead is but the Pac-12 Conference woke up recently and decided $696,000 a month in rent is too steep.
That’s what a couple of floors at 370 Third St. in downtown San Francisco cost over the last decade. The Pac-12 presidents and chancellors met three weeks ago and debated where to move conference headquarters.
“Do we even need a headquarters?” eventually became the question.
On Tuesday the Pac-12 informed most of its employees that they can now work from home. A small satellite facility, likely in the suburbs of the Bay Area, will be established for 40 or so employees who require production equipment to do their jobs. There will be no official conference headquarters.
Said one staffer: “We were encouraged to live somewhere on the West Coast in the event that we have to gather with our team but we’re going fully remote.”
No more parking headaches.
No more entry-level employees and interns bunking three to an apartment.
Best of all, not another dime in rent paid to Kilroy Realty Corp.
The Pac-12 gave away more than $90 million in rent over the last 11 years. Conference commissioner George Kliavkoff deserves credit for putting a stop to it. Some rational, sensical things have happened on his short watch. Eliminating a lavish and unnecessary expense may sound like a no-brainer but I’m celebrating it.
The Pac-12 CEO Group is comprised of the presidents and chancellors of the conference members. The leaders have managed the budgets of their own campuses, faced unforeseen challenges, refined distance learning and worked through a pandemic.
Work from home?
I’m kicking myself for not thinking that might be a possibility. I’d considered the sports boom in Las Vegas and that city’s deep ties with Kliavkoff. I’d weighed the geography of the Pac-12 footprint. I’d compared commercial real estate costs and talked with sources internally at the conference who thought Las Vegas or Phoenix made the most sense.
I considered all of this while writing multiple columns about it from — ahem — my home. To readers who may have been reading from… duh… their homes. Edgar Allan Poe would love this tale. The Pac-12’s answer was hidden in plain sight, just like the purloined letter Poe once wrote about.
The financial benefit to conference members is roughly $7 million in savings per university over the next decade. That by itself is worth celebrating because the media rights revenue projections for Big Ten and SEC double up the Pac-12 in the coming decade. But it’s the wise, measured manner in which this all unfolded that I keep thinking about.
Larry Scott, Kliavkoff’s predecessor, alienated his staff. I found a single-spaced six-page letter the other day sent to me by one of his employees. It outlined a long line of petty transgressions, frustrations and offenses.
The letter writer noted that one football season Scott stopped the long-standing practice of giving every employee two Rose Bowl tickets as a holiday bonus. The tickets were regularly given to the conference by the bowl game as a perk. According to the letter, Scott told the staff there was a shortage of tickets. Staff members later found out the commissioner gave complimentary Rose Bowl tickets to a group of parents on his son’s soccer team.
Kliavkoff must be paying attention. Because he’s been especially inclusive with employees. A few weeks ago in Las Vegas during the Pac-12 basketball tournament I asked the commissioner whether the San Francisco headquarters might be abandoned for a more affordable option.
The commissioner reminded me that people’s lives are involved. He sees his employees as people. Many of them have spouses, children and mortgages. Kliavkoff said that the matter was being discussed but he was reluctant to say more. Bottom line, the decision would have a major impact on his staff.
Kliavkoff informed his employees directly on Tuesday. Turns out you can save money, please your bosses, do the right thing and value people at the same time.
Most of the Pac-12 staff can now work and live wherever they’d like, within reason. Lots of forward-thinking companies are moving in that direction. But it strikes me as I write those two words — forward thinking — is this the new Pac-12?
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John, you deserve huge props for digging into the dysfunctional Scott regime in a way and with a breadth of detail no one else did.
"The Pac-12 gave away more than $90 million in rent over the last 11 years. Conference commissioner George Kliavkoff deserves credit for putting a stop to it."
Yes, GK deserves monster credit for all the steps he has made in little under a year. However, I think *you* deserve a big portion of praise in this also, John. It was your investigative journalism that pulled the curtain back on the reprehensible mess that was Larry Scott.
The $696,000/month rent makes me want to gag every time I think of it...especially compared to the SEC being housed in Birmingham in a 20-some year old brick building for $318K per *year*. His helicopters and private planes and luxury suites in Vegas are nauseating. However, the piece de resistance, of which I was unaware until this column... giving away employees' Christmas bonus Rose Bowl tickets to the parents of his kids soccer team... well, I veer from total disgust to white-hot anger over that.
Thank the gods we are out of this miasma and to a very great extent, you deserve the credit for that. By bringing pressure on the university presidents and chancellors through your dogged refusal to quit exposing what was going on, you kept the heat on Scott and more importantly on the university presidents who ultimately were responsible for this . Conference commissioner George Kliavkoff deserves credit for putting a stop to it, but you deserve credit for starting the fire that took it all down.
Long live a healthy 4th Estate.