George Kliavkoff, the president of entertainment and sports at MGM Resorts, was named the next commissioner of the Pac-12 commissioner, the conference announced on Thursday.
Kliavkoff will replace Larry Scott when Scott officially steps down on June 30, one year before his contract expires.
Kliavkoff, 54, was approved by a unanimous vote of Pac-12 presidents and chancellors. and was given a five-year contract that will begin July 1. He has previous experience with the WNBA and major-league baseball but has never been a college sports administrator.
As San Jose Mercury Pac-12 analyst Jon Wilner put it, "The Pac-12 has gone outside the box in order to get back on track."
This falls into the high-risk, high-reward category, and the quality of the hire won't be known for several years. The Pac-12 has turned to a person with impressive business credentials rather than one with experience in college sports.
Speculation had focused on people with a college sports background, including former NCAA executive, college athletic director and NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, as well as Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte.
Kliavkoff was not one of the names being mentioned in speculative reports. And, like Scott, he has no experience as an administrator in college sports. Scott came to the Pac-12 after being head of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).
The Pac-12 said it wanted its new commissioner to be in place for negotiations of the conference's next media rights agreement, and Kliavkoff's experience with Hulu and NBC should help in that regard.
During his introductory press conference Thursday, Kliavkoff said he will push to expand the College Football Playoff from its current structure as a four-team event. However, Kliavkoff said he had no particular format in mind in terms of number of teams that should be involved.
The Pac-12 has not had a representative in the CFP since 2016, going four straight years without one.
Kliavkoff's success as commissioner will be measured in large part by the football success of Pac-12 teams, whose football image has been damaged significantly in recent years.
"Everything is up for review to make us more competitive," Kliavkoff said Thursday. "I want to be clear about that.
"I believe personally the solution to elevating Pac-12 football is a combination of structural issues and a more focused approach on recruiting."
He also said the Pac-12 will promote name, image and licensing agreements to benefit the conference's athletes, which could enhance recruiting, especially since the Pac-12 includes some big-market sites (Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Phoenix area, Denver area, Seattle, Salt Lake City).
Kliavkoff attended Boston University and received a law degree from the University of Virginia,
Kliavkoff has been with MGM Resorts the past three years, and previously worked for Hulu and NBC. He has served on the WNBA board of governors and was the executive vice president of business for MLB Advanced Media in the early 2000s.
During his tenure at MGM Resorts International, Kliavkoff oversaw the company’s sponsorship of professional and college sports leagues and conferences, including the Pac-12 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the Pac-12 football championship game.
He also led the company’s global sponsorship sales efforts and sat on the board of BetMGM, one of the three largest U.S. sports betting companies.
“He is the new prototype for a sports commissioner," Oregon president Michael H. Schill, who led the five-member search committee, said in a statement. "While George has deep sports experience, his biggest asset is his ability to listen, connect with diverse groups, find common ground, collaborate and navigate an evolving landscape."
“I am thrilled to be the Pac-12 Commissioner," Kliavkoff said in a statement. "This is a challenging time for intercollegiate athletics, but I believe these challenges also create significant opportunities. I loved being a student-athlete, and I’m passionate about the doors that college sports and higher education open for young women and men."
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