As should be expected, in his first public pep talk since USC and UCLA announced their intention to jump from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten in two years, Pac-12 Conference commissioner George Kliavkoff struck an optimistic tone with his comments on Pac-12 Football Media Day on Friday, July 29, in Los Angeles.
He, of course, didn't talk about specific candidates to join the conference. But he did indicate the Pac-12 is looking to add members.
Among his interesting statements: "(The) Southern California (market) is really important to us. I think there are different ways of approaching staying part of Southern California. We may end up playing a lot of football games in L.A."
The conference championship game, which will again be played in Las Vegas this season, certainly could be played in Los Angeles. Kliavkoff did not specify how else Pac-12 football games might be played in L.A., but given the recruiting and alumni bases for every school in that region, it's easy to see programs willing to trade an occasional home game to play in Los Angeles.
Here are some other highlights from Kliavkoff:
• On media rights negotiations, he expects it to be several months after the Big Ten deal is finalized before the next Pac-12 media package comes together. He said the conference is working on several fronts to improve the value of its media rights:
"We already have significant interest from potential partners, including both incumbents and new traditional television and most importantly digital media partners. This interest is driven by the strength of our schools' brands and markets and a recognition of our continued leadership position in college football across the Western and Mountain time zones. With the value of premium college sports rights continuing to rise, multiple interested media partners and limited opportunities, particularly in the west, we are confident in the long-term value of our rights.
"Even with the loss of our two L.A. schools, we still believe that after the current cycle of media rights deals, we will be very well positioned among the Power Five from a revenue-per-school standpoint.
On the role streaming services might play in the next media rights deal:
"Without talking about individual potential partners, I would say it's highly likely that we will end up with a big digital partner for some of our rights and that our rights will be distributed in a way that's unique, different and new. "
• On possible expansion: Kliavkoff said the conference is looking to add members, but did not name any specific candidates. During the question-and-answer session with reporters, he took a jab at Big 12 Conference being open to adding Pac-12 schools.
"With respect to the Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate that. We haven't decided if we're going shopping there or not yet," he said.
In terms what the conference is seeking in potential new members, he said:
"We are actively exploring expansion opportunities. As we consider these opportunities, we will look at media value, athletic strength, academic and cultural fit and geography from a recruiting and student-athlete experience standpoint.
"As you would expect, we've had significant inbound interest and are in the process of evaluating opportunities."
• On competing financially with the revenue produced by the SEC and Big Ten:
"Listen, we understand how important revenue is. We understand that for the last 10 years, because of a series of decisions that were made by the conference 10 years ago, we're behind. We have to close the gap in revenue. That's going to be a focus. But as we think about adding schools, one of the criteria will be cultural, academic fit. It's really important to our presidents and chancellors who make these decisions at the end of the day."
• Though he didn't name the Big Ten, he said the Pac-12 will keep the impact on its student athletes, including travel, among factors that will be considered before adding a member.
"Start with market, the media value. Go to the athletic value, whether or not they would contribute to the Conference of Champions. Academic and culture fit is part of it. Then we're very focused, I think uniquely, in thinking about the effect on student-athletes when we add schools. We think about travel and about what we're going to put our student-athletes through if we expand geographically too far away."
• On if there is a chance UCLA and/or USC might change course and stick with the Pac-12:
"Here's how I would characterize that. I'd say UCLA is in a really difficult position. There are a lot of constituents related to UCLA who are very, very, very unhappy with the decision. Student-athletes, the families of student-athletes. The faculty, the staff. The politicians, the fans, the alumni. There's a lot of really, really upset people with that decision.
"There's a hearing (in front of the University of California board of regents) coming up (in August) about that decision.
"I can't give you a percentage chance. I think it's unlikely. But if they came back, we'd welcome them back."
• On what needs to happen to rein in boosters and programs using NIL opportunities for recruiting:
"Anti-trust is the reason why the current NCAA rules are not being enforced. The risk of anti-trust diminishes when you have a smaller number of conferences, smaller number of schools instituting rules and enforcing those rules. That's why I'm calling for the 10 FBS conferences to focus our attention as opposed to waiting for the NCAA.
"The clear line for me should be that boosters should not be able to interact with high school students before they've committed. Coaches should be able to say to a recruit that historically kids who have come here and played that position at that level have enjoyed this kind of NIL. But you can't negotiate the NIL before the kid has committed. That would be a good bright-line rule that I think would be easier to implement."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.