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New Pac-12 commissioner Kliavkoff visits ASU, talks CFP expansion

George Kliavkoff (Photo courtesy of Charlie Leight/Arizona State University)

As new Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff prepares to step into the role, he made it clear Thursday that a big focus for him as he joins the conference is to support the expansion of the College Football Playoff.

While he isn’t sure on the format — he wants to do his due diligence on the matter before jumping to conclusions — he thinks there’s a big need for a change.

“I believe that it’s not good for college football and for the vast majority of college football fans when 20 of the 28 CFP events, 71%, go to just 4 schools,” Kliavkoff told reporters via Zoom.

Alongside that, he recognized that for the conference to stay competitive, the schools will need to up recruiting efforts and showcase the all-around solid educations student-athletes can receive at a Pac-12 school.

“We need to make sure that high school athletes understand the lifetime value of a Pac-12 education,” he said. “We need to be more aggressive about teaching the legacy of the Pac-12 as the conference of champions.”

Kliavkoff supports NIL legislation, which allows student-athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness, and believes if approved, it will only elevate those recruiting efforts to get high level talent across all sports.

“At the conference level, we will invest to give Pac-12 athletes — football players and others — an opportunity to create a bigger, social platform,” Kliavkoff added.

The Arizona State Sun Devils, who were the first to meet the new commissioner while hosting his introduction on Thursday, were thrilled to hear of Kliavkoff’s plans for moving the conference’s football programs forward.

“We were able to also talk privately about the importance of, very frankly, upgrading, fixing Pac-12 football,” ASU’s VP for university athletics Ray Anderson said via Zoom.

“We’re really excited that we have a commissioner who understands how important football is and, I think, is very committed to drawing upon all the expertise and resources to help figure out how we advance it as quickly and as appropriately as we can going forward.”

However, football isn’t all Kliavkoff has set his eyes on investing in.

The 2020-21 season saw two Pac-12 teams square off in the NCAA women’s basketball championship game. And as someone who once managed the Las Vegas Aces franchise and worked with the WNBA, the new commissioner wants to continue that rise to the top.

“People will realize what a great, fun sport that is to watch and how athletic these young women are,” Kliavkoff said. “I also think about the broader sports, some of the Olympic sports and the success the Pac-12 has had in creating champions in women’s sports and want to continue to invest in that.”

Before being tapped for commissioner, Kliavkoff was the president of entertainment and sports at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas. He has also spent time in high-level positions with MLB Advanced Media and NBC Universal Cable, which will aid the steering of the Pac-12 Network.

Kliavkoff said he’d like to grow the network to become accessible to fans on multiple platforms, while also focusing on expanding media rights beyond the current Pac-12 Network, as it is just a “small slice” of the content the conference can produce and distribute.

While Kliavkoff hasn’t been around collegiate athletics, ASU’s Anderson said the commissioner’s unique business mindset will only help grow the revenue and respect Pac-12 football needs.

“George comes in with great experience in the media, the entertainment industry, but what he really comes in with is the recognition that we’ve got to be creative in pushing football,” Anderson said.

“What we have to do is we have to have institutions and athletic departments who buy into maybe changing some of the things we do to be able to provide something that people find more valuable.”


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