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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Why New Pac-12 Commissioner Teresa Gould Deserved Better

  • The first female Power 5 commissioner is the latest example of the glass cliff phenomenon.
  • Gould, who brings more than 30 years of experience, was given a dumpster fire of a conference.
Kirby Lee-USA Today

On Friday, Teresa Gould began her tenure as Pac-12 commissioner after George Kliavkoff was ousted from the conference.  

Gould is the first female commissioner of an Autonomy 5, or Power 5, conference—a major milestone in the college sports industry. But Gould’s appointment follows a concerning pattern for female executives. 

The “glass cliff,” coined by two University of Exeter professors, refers to the idea that women have a much better chance of breaking a barrier in corporate leadership roles as a result of crises and, therefore, are set up to fail. Gould will preside over a conference fighting for its survival after being tanked by two former male commissioners. She joins several women inside and outside of the sports industry, from former Marlins GM Kim Ng to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, as women appointed to roles either during or after major tumult. 

Gould will have to negotiate TV deals for the Pac-12 that will undoubtedly be less lucrative than existing deals for the 12-member conference. As the Big Ten and SEC reportedly attempt to strong-arm the expanded College Football Playoff to their own benefit, Gould must ensure a path to the riches of the playoff—though she has almost no leverage. If that weren’t enough, she’ll have to reckon with the billion-dollar legal liabilities and maintain the conference’s place among the groups lobbying in Congress to save amateurism. 

“I wanted to be the leader that fought on behalf of the student-athletes and their future” at Oregon State and Washington State, Gould said Thursday. (The historic nature of her appointment was mentioned in a press release in February but not acknowledged during Thursday’s media call.) 

She laid out her main priorities for the conference: (1) Make the Pac-12 conference office operate like a power conference to support Washington State and Oregon State, the two remaining members; (2) represent Pac-12 interests at the CFP, FBS, Power 5, and NCAA levels; and (3) create a viable future for WSU and OSU, who currently have scheduling partnerships with the Mountain West and West Coast Conference but no clear long-term plan.

Gould brings more than 30 years of experience to the position and most recently spent six years as a deputy commissioner at the conference under former commissioners Larry Scott and Kliavkoff. She’s served on multiple NCAA committees and worked in at least two athletic departments. But it’s unclear whether all that business savvy would help anyone succeed in a role that’s never existed in college sports. 

One X (formerly Twitter) user likened the situation to “taking a job at Spirit Halloween on Oct. 30.”

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