Discover more from Bald Faced Truth by John Canzano
Canzano: Pac-12 waiting game enters March Madness
George Kliavkoff sat courtside in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS — George Kliavkoff sat courtside in a folding chair on Thursday at Michelob Ultra Arena. The toes of his sneakers were on the edge of the hardwood floor where the Pac-12 Conference women’s basketball teams were playing.
The conference commissioner watched the quarterfinal games of the conference tournament. Several different people slipped into the seat beside him during the day.
In the break between the early-session games, Hall of Fame player Jennifer Azzi dropped by. She’s the head of business development for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces now. A handful of athletic directors were in the building, too. But this is where Kliavkoff posted up while the rest of us waited and wondered.
Decide for yourself if you think the Pac-12 has been wise to be quiet and guarded over the last six months. There’s some logic in it. Former Fox Sports Networks president Bob Thompson said earlier this week, “Give the Pac-12 credit; there haven’t been any leaks. They’ve kept things very tight.”
That’s probably appreciated by the Pac-12’s negotiating partners. Beyond that, though, I think it’s been a misfire by the conference to allow so many other parties tell the conference’s story and muddy up the public conversation.
The conference presidents and chancellors don’t think so. Multiple athletic directors wave off the negativity as noise, too. And Kliavkoff hasn’t projected any of that, especially not on Thursday, or even Wednesday, when he sat in the same chair at the arena inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Still, that’s the narrative being peddled by the spin doctors and their puppets. It’s hurt the brand. It’s damaged public confidence. The Pac-12 needs something positive to talk about next week when the men’s basketball tournament starts. Not a brief statement of unity or administrators/executives speaking anonymously, but some bonafide news.
I don’t know if Kliavkoff is a fisherman. But I think he needs to appear on the deck of the SS Pac-12 next week, smiling, holding up a fish and telling us how he caught it. Some real news on the media rights front? A confirmation that the conference is definitely expanding? Either that, or he’d better arrive with some sensible talking points to curb some of the “Chicken Little” handwringing going on out there.
Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens was in the arena on Thursday. I spoke with him for a few minutes at halftime of the Ducks loss to Stanford. I also chatted with UCLA AD Martin Jarmond, who watched his women’s team advance to Friday night’s semifinals. Both ADs are understandably focused on the NCAA Tournament field and how their respective programs fit.
The Ducks men’s team is suddenly well positioned to grab the No. 4 seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. That comes with a first-round bye. Coach Dana Altman has had a rocky season but finds himself hunting for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, UCLA won the conference’s regular-season title. The Bruins could play deep in the tournament.
There has been a tsunami-like build up on the media rights front over the last six months. Apple or Amazon? ESPN, too? Expansion? There’s been constant public discussion and daily anticipation. We’re all waiting for Christmas morning, but we keep waking up in March.
I get it. The Pac-12’s strategy has remained consistent. It has refused to engage in the public misinformation battle, choosing instead to focus its energy on getting the best possible media rights deal done — we hope.
It’s an intentional, philosophical decision. One that may be driven by the Pac-12’s CEO Group more than Kliavkoff’s team at headquarters.
Fans in the Pac-12 need some news soon. Recruits want to know what’s going on. Coaches are restless and wondering, too. Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith told me this week that he knows the media rights negotiations are out of his control, but he’s tracking developments like the rest of us. Meanwhile boosters at SMU, San Diego State and some other places have watched and waited.
We’re all sort of just… waiting.
I appreciate all who read, support, subscribe and share this new independent endeavor with friends and families. If you’re not already a “paid” subscriber, please consider a subscription or a gift subscription for someone else: