New Pac-12 Commissioner Visits UW as Part of His Full Conference Tour

George Kliavkoff meets with administrators, athletes, coaches, donors and media at each stop.

As accessible as his predecessor was deemed aloof, new Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff visited the University of Washington this past few days, making Seattle his 11th stop on a full-fledged tour of the conference. 

This city was more familiar to him than the others because Kliavkoff, who's spent most of professional career in digital media, resided in Seattle from 1995 to 2005 while working for Real Networks. 

He was no stranger to the UW campus either, previously having been a Husky basketball season-ticket holder and sharing football season tickets with others.

In just two-plus months on the job after replacing Larry Scott, Kliavkoff has received high marks for his visibility and for taking immediate actions such as forming a working alliance with the Big Ten and ACC to offset the coming SEC expansion. 

Asked on Friday whether he personally set that arrangement in motion, Kliavkoff smiled and said he wasn't going to talk about that, which seemed to answer the question.

While college football considers whether to expand to an 8- or 12-team playoff, Kliavkoff wouldn't say which he prefers, only that four teams is unacceptable competitively.

"I think the CFP structure, the way it is today, is broken," he said. "I think the idea that only 3 percent of your student athletes in a sport get to participate in a championship or a playoff doesn't make any sense to me. In every other sport we have, it's somewhere between 18 to 25 percent of athletes who get to compete for a championship."

Kliavkoff stressed rather strongly, without mentioning the SEC, which has dominated the playoffs over the past decade, that the current playoff system needs to change for the overall good of college football rather than a chose few.

"The worst thing about it is it's self-perpetuating," he said. "If you're one of the four teams that gets an invitation in the first round, the first time they're given out for CFPs, it makes it easier to recruit the top talent, which means you get back into it. The math is the math: 20 of the 28 CFP invitations have gone to four schools."

Part of the hold-up for establishing a new playoff system is satisfying everyone with the proper dispersal of the media rights, mollifying the Rose Bowl to adhere to all of its traditions, dealing with cold-weather sites and addressing potential health or academic issues that might arise with more games.

"We all want to expand the College Football Playoff," Kliavkoff said. "And we all want to do it sooner than later."

On his campus tours, this proactive commissioner has met with sports administrators, coaches, players, donors and media, wanting to hear what everyone has to say in terms of improving the Pac-12. 

Referring to the athletes, Kliavkoff said, "They ask the best questions."

He answered a wide range of media inquiries, such as elevating Pac-12 football nationally to relocating the league headquarters to someplace cheaper than San Francisco to finding more conference events that can be hosted in Las Vegas along with football and basketball.

Kliavkoff also said that federal regulations were needed to police name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities for players or else rampant abuses will emerge if only state law oversees them. 

A year ago, the Scott-led Pac-12 was criticized for lacking proper leadership after it was among the first to postpone or cancel all sporting activities at the height of the pandemic and the last to restart football. Teams such as the UW, WSU, California and Arizona State played just four games a year ago.

Kliavkoff so far been praised by the UW administration and rest of the conference for coming in ready to push change. 

"This is a guy with tremendous experience and transparency," said Husky athletic director Jen Cohen, who has accompanied the commissioner to the various local meetings. "We couldn't have had him come in at a better time with all of the changes to college sports."

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