Wednesday November 29, 2023

The Future of College Sports Commissioners

  • The Pac-12 signaled a pivot with its hire of MGM executive George Kliavkoff as its new commissioner.
  • Negotiations for new media deals loom before the 2023-2024 season.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports/Design: Alex Brooks
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The Pac-12 Conference could be headed in a radically different direction with the hire of George Kliavkoff, the president of sports and entertainment at MGM Resorts, as its new commissioner.

The decision to go with someone with extensive media rights and entertainment experience — from Las Vegas, no less — speaks volumes in terms of the Power Five conference’s priorities and long-term vision.

Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC — made more than $2.9 billion in combined revenue for their 2019 fiscal years, according to federal tax records. The Big Ten brought in $781.5 million compared to $530 million for the Pac-12.

“The Pac-12 is leaning hard into the Vegas scene, and probably the sports wagering world that comes with it,” said Matt Fortuna of The Athletic.

One of Kliavkoff’s first big tests will be negotiating a new media rights deal beginning in the 2023-2024 season. The Pac-12 once had the most lucrative media rights deal in all of college sports, but it has since been surpassed. 

  • Back in December, the SEC announced a 10-year deal with Disney worth $3 billion.
  • All of the conference’s games will air on ESPN and ABC starting in 2024.

Kliavkoff was previously the executive vice president of business at MLB Advanced Media, the chief digital officer at NBCUniversal, a board member and interim CEO at Hulu, and was also a board member for A&E.

“He’s being fashioned as the ‘prototype’ of college commissioners of the future,” John Canzano of The Oregonian writes of Kliavkoff. 

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