Pac-12 Media Day 2022: Commissioner George Kliavkoff blasts ‘frightened’ Big 12 as his league explores expansion

LOS ANGELES — Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff found himself in one of the most unenviable jobs in the sport on Friday when he was asked during Pac-12 Media Day to answer of a conference facing its most crucial moment in its 107-year history.

Although he tried hard to focus his remarks on league and collegiate goals, Kliavkoff just couldn’t hide his frustration. He lashed out at the first question about college football playoff access in a post-USC world and refused to answer others about the machinations of leaving USC. However, he saved most of his anger for the other conference at war with impending media rights negotiations.

“As for the Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate that. We haven’t decided yet if we’re going to shop there,” Kliavkoff said in response to statements made by new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark at his inaugural Media Days event, drawing laughs from the contingent of reporters.

The Pac-12 and the Big 12 have been at war since June, when USC and UCLA announced their shock decision to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten by 2024. Less than a week later, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported that the Big 12 is targeting up to six Pac-12 schools as expansion targets, with Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah taking center stage .

Kliavkoff’s Pac-12 quickly went on the offensive. The conference has “actively explored opportunities for expansion,” Kliavkoff said, marking the same strategy that kept the Big 12 afloat after Texas and Oklahoma announced plans to leave for the second half a year ago. DRY. However, the expansion battle turns into an existential game of Risk with tens of millions of TV dollars at stake.

“That remark reflects the fact that I spent four weeks trying to defend myself against the grenades that were thrown from all corners of the Big 12 in an attempt to destabilize our remaining conference,” Kliavkoff said. “I understand why they’re doing this. When you look at the relative media value between the two conferences, I understand, I understand why they’re scared, why they’re trying to destabilize us. I was just tired of that.”

The Pac-12 is in the middle of a 30-day trading window with ESPN and Fox ending Aug. 4. In addition to linear networks, the Pac-12 is looking to streaming platforms and other digital offerings to potentially increase the value of the league’s media rights deal.

However, the Pac-12 do not plan to enter into any television deal until the Big Ten finalize their contract in the coming weeks. Even then, signing a contract could take months. Hanging above the conference are potential Big Ten openings at four other Pac-12 schools: Cal, Oregon, Stanford and Washington.

The Pac-12 television contract expires in 2024, and the league plans to create new television properties and thoroughly explore expansion to try to maximize its payouts. It’s unclear, however, what level of revenue the league can expect with its blue blood marks heading east and a plethora of storylines hanging over the rest of the league.

Regardless, Kliavkoff said he remains optimistic about the future of his conference.

“We’ve had two board meetings a week for the past four weeks,” he said. “Looking my colleagues in the eye, understanding their commitment, that their first priority is to ensure the Pac-12 survives, thrives, grows and succeeds.

“They’re attached to the conference. I think the best thing to do is ask them about it.”

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