SAN FRANCISCO (ABC4 Sports) – The Pac-12 Conference has hired sports entertainment executive George Kliavkoff to be the conference’s next commissioner on Thursday, replacing Larry Scott with a person with a similar resume short on college sports experience.
The conference presidents conducted a secretive nearly four-month search that included speculation about some familiar names in college sports being considered, such as former NCAA executive and NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Texas AD Chris Del Conte.
Instead, the Pac-12’s next commissioner — much like its last —- comes to the conference with no experience as an administrator in college sports.
Kliavkoff has been in his current role with MGM since 2018 and has extensive experience with professional sports leagues and digital properties.
“With today’s announcement, I believe that I am transitioning from the best job in entertainment to the best job in sports,” Kliavkoff said in a video conference with reporters. “I made this jump because I’m passionate about the mission of the Pac-12 Conference, to drive financial results, to protect and expand scholarships and support the other educational goals of our member institutions.”
Kliavkoff previously worked with Major League Baseball Advance Media and as the chief digital officer with NBC Universal Cable.
“The world is changing so dramatically that we need a forward thinker. I think we all, in talking to George and talking with each of the candidates, really spent a lot of time thinking about the future, talking about the future, and we just felt that George had both the ability to handle the here and now, the values that we all share as part of the Pac-12 — which we think are exceptional values — and the ability to sort of see the future and help us adapt to the future,” said Michael H. Schill, the University of Oregon president and chair of the five-member search committee.
Utah athletic director Mark Harlan released a statement following the announcement.
“On behalf of Utah Athletics, I want to welcome George Kliavkoff to the Pac-12 Conference as our new Commissioner. He brings an innovative, strategic approach to a very challenging role, with intercollegiate athletics in a truly transformative period. I am confident that Commissioner Kliavkoff will ensure that the Pac-12 is a national leader in shaping college athletics for years to come and will help our conference cement its position as the nation’s premier athletic conference. This is an exciting time to be a part of the Conference of Champions and we welcome George and his family to the Pac-12 Family!”
Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham said he is looking forward to working with the new commissioner.
Kliavkoff said he has three priorities when he formally takes over as commissioner in July.
“First, we will protect and support our student-athletes. Second, we will make decisions to optimize revenue for our member institutions, including renegotiating our media distribution deals. And third, we will do everything we can at the conference level to make our teams more competitive in revenue-generating sports, especially football,” he said.
Kliavkoff said he supports expansion of the College Football Playoff and the implementation of consistent name, image and likeness guidelines.
“We think that both CFP expansion and NIL legislation are good for college sports fans, good for our student-athletes, and can be a significant competitive advantage for the Pac-12,” he said.
Scott announced in January that he would be stepping down at the end of June. The Pac-12 said the change in leadership was mutually agreed upon by Scott and the university presidents, but it had been apparent for a while that his term was likely to end before his contract expired in June 2022.
Scott’s 11-year tenure as commissioner began with the conference landing a transformational billion-dollar television deal, but the Pac-12 struggled to keep up with some of its Power Five peers when it came to revenue and exposure.
The Pac-12 launched a television network under Scott, but it never became a cash cow like those in the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference. Scott, who came to the Pac-12 from the Women’s Tennis Association, was often criticized for being out of touch with campus-level decision makers in college sports and overspending on the conference office.
Kliavkoff, 54, takes over as commissioner as the Pac-12 tries to rebuild its football brand. The conference has only placed a team in the College Football Playoff twice since the CFP began in 2014. Scott began pushing for playoff expansion late in his tenure, and now it seems to be heading in that direction.