George Kliavkoff is in just his first month as the commissioner of the Pac-12 and he finds himself in quite an intriguing time in college athletics.
Only a few weeks into his tenure, a new batch of realignment — Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 for the SEC — took the world of college sports by storm. With the SEC further establishing itself as the dominant presence among the power conferences, Kliavkoff said the Pac-12 won’t shy away from expansion opportunities of its own.
In fact, Kliavkoff said the Pac-12 has “already had significant interest from many schools.”
“We do not think expansion is required to continue to compete and thrive. That said, the fallout from Texas and Oklahoma gives us an opportunity to once again consider expansion,” Kliavkoff said Tuesday at Pac-12 Media Days. “We have already had significant inbound interest from many schools. We will work with our presidents and chancellors to evaluate these opportunities.”
Kliavkoff said the league is “comfortable” with the current membership and that there isn’t “any risk in staying at 12 teams.” But that doesn't mean it will.
“It is a priority to consider all of the alternatives that have been presented to us. And we will do that in a very timely manner,” Kliavkoff said.
Kliavkoff said “athletics, academics and cultural fit” are taken into account for prospective entrants into the Pac-12, but there are no specific prerequisites or level of accreditation (like the AAU) required.
How can the Pac-12 improve in football?
The Pac-12 hasn’t had a team in the College Football Playoff since 2016. Larry Scott, Kliavkoff’s predecessor, often pointed to the parity throughout the Pac-12 as a positive.
Kliavkoff has a different view. He wants Pac-12 teams competing for national titles.
“Unlike conferences with a single dominant team, we often have multiple top teams and significant depth in the conference and a nine-game conference schedule. While this has led to greater parity, it has historically hurt us in the ratings and it has certainly cost us CFP invitations,” Kliavkoff said. “I want to be 100% clear. Going forward, the Pac-12 conference will make all of our football-related decisions with the combined goals of optimizing CFP invitations and winning national championships.”
Of course, the proposed expansion of the College Football Playoff from four to 12 teams will make entry into the field much more attainable should it come to fruition. Still, the Pac-12 is forming a “football strategic working group” with the aim of recommending changes that will better position the conference’s schools to win championships.
“Every decision the conference makes related to football is on the table for discussion,” Kliavkoff said. “We will look at our conference schedules, including the number of conference games that we play, and the start time of each game. We will look at our non-conference scheduling. We will evaluate whether having divisions does or does not make sense. We will work collectively to keep our very best recruits in our markets and to market our league to recruits everywhere.”
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