Sports Pac-12 commissioner wants collegiality back in college sports. ...

Pac-12 commissioner wants collegiality back in college sports. But deep down, he knew that platitudes would not save his meeting opinion


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Not long after Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff recently lamented the lack of collegiality in college sports he made about the least collegial comment you’ll ever hear from someone in his position.

Asked about his new Big 12 counterpart Brett Yormark’s line two weeks ago, his league is “open for business” in expansion — perhaps, as a signal fire among antsy Pac 12 schools in the wake of the departures of Southern California and UCLA. Big Ten — Kliavkoff returns with the only memorable line from the Pac-12 media days.

“We appreciate it,” he said. “We haven’t decided if we want to shop there.”

Kliavkoff later acknowledged that it was a desperation comment given how weak the Pac-12 was since the shocking news that the league’s anchor members in Los Angeles were on their way out. Are the rest of the Pac-12 schools strong enough to hold together? Is there any way for Oregon and Washington to follow USC and UCLA to the Big Ten? Will the so-called Four Corners schools — Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State — find a more stable home in the Big 12, or will the Pac 12 have a way of luring current Big 12 members west?

At this point, even Kliavkoff could not reliably predict what was about to happen. He has a group of presidents who talk about solidarity in conference meetings but look at options in person. He’s got a newly emboldened Big 12 to recruit its members. And at least on the surface, he doesn’t appear to have an expansion move that would replace leftovers with USC and UCLA.

“I’m spending four weeks fending off grenades being lobbed from every corner of the Big 12 trying to destabilize the rest of our conference,” Kliavkoff said. “I understand why they’re doing it when you look at the relative media value between meetings. I understand, I understand why they are afraid, why they are trying to destabilize it. I’m tired of it. ”

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Welcome to college sports, George, where disloyalty, selfishness and survival have long been the hallmarks of a successful conference, the “student-athlete experience.” Did you think that major conference commissioners get paid $3 million or more a year to schedule football and sit on NCAA committees these days?

Doing what is necessary to increase the revenue distributed to member schools is the job and has been for a long time. Attacking or destroying another conference is bad enough. System college presidents let it, so they got it. They didn’t change or fix it because they didn’t care about the system of winners and losers – as long as they were on the right side.

That’s why it’s hard to reconcile Kliavkoff’s position that all the rest of the Pac-12 schools have looked each other in the eye and committed to keeping up with every other university’s behavior in the last 20 years of college sports clawing at each other. The best possible meeting situation.

And why it’s hard to take seriously any suggestion that it’s time to calm the waters in realignment, when the Pac-12 itself has alternated between victim and predator over the last dozen years.

In fact, you can trace today’s confusion from 2010, when the Pac-12 bolded public play to add Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado, all members of the Big 12 at the time.

It’s hard to say how close the deal really was — there’s some speculation that Texas engineered the whole thing for leverage — but the mistrust and instability it created caused Texas A&M and Missouri to go to the SEC when the opportunity arose.

Kliavkoff wasn’t leading the Pac-12 then, but then-commissioner Larry Scott had the right idea. He couldn’t close the deal, ending up settling in Colorado and Utah and signing a media rights package that would ultimately make the league vulnerable to what happened last month.

Kliavkopf was responsible for not adding Big 12 schools last summer, when Texas and Oklahoma were considering joining the SEC and evaluating whether the Big 12 was still viable, with the likes of Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU. Meeting for them in the future. He was also partially responsible for the so-called alliance the Pac-12 formed with the ACC and Big Ten, promising (but not written into the agreement) that the Big 12 would not attack each other.


It’s easy to sympathize with Kliavkoff’s struggles and his challenge to maintain the Pac 12’s viability, but no one has time for a loser’s whine about what college sports should be at its most virtuous at this stage of the game.

“Our long-term measure of the success of college athletics is how much money we consolidate into ten or five or two conferences, but the ability to support the greatest number of student-athletes while facilitating competition between schools and conferences,” he said.

Sorry, that train pulled out of the station a long time ago and it’s not coming back.

Kliavkoff is not a college sports lifer, but an entertainment industry executive who moved away from Las Vegas with the goal of generating more revenue for the league. That’s the job Kliavkoff signed up for, one he’ll have a hard time doing successfully now that USC and UCLA are gone. Of course he said that competitions mattered, geography mattered and what was best for the athletes mattered.

But college sports left that world en masse a long time ago. Like it or not, this is a revenue game with winners and losers. USC and UCLA decided to make a move before getting stuck on the losing side.

Appealing to an old-fashioned notion of what college sports should be won’t save the Pac 12. But if Klevkoff is going to ruin the peer conference, he’d better get on with it, because it’s better to wait for something to happen than this dog-eat-dog world will leave you alone.

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