Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff tries to quell concern

As school leaders hold their collective breath amid persistent speculation over a new media rights deal and defections, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said Friday that no deal would be announced at the conference’s football media day “on purpose, because we want the focus to be on football.”

The commissioner’s comment raised some eyebrows: Did that mean a deal was already done?

“I think you’re reading too much into that,” Kliavkoff said when asked if that was the case.

Where the conference actually stands in its media rights negotiations remains unclear, but Kliavkoff, who hadn’t spoken publicly since last year, tried his best Friday to quell any looming concerns about both the Pac-12’s TV deal and the status of its membership.

“Our schools are committed to each other and to the Pac-12,” Kliavkoff said. “We’ll get our media rights deal done, we’ll announce the deal. I think the realignment that’s going on in college athletics will come to an end for this cycle. The truth is we’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

The conference is already bracing to lose two of its biggest fish, USC and UCLA, as both are set to leave for the Big Ten next summer. The pertinent question remains whether others could still join them in abandoning ship.

Kliavkoff tried to project confidence on that front Friday. The prospect of other schools leaving the conference is “not a concern.”

As for a media rights agreement, Kliavkoff said the conference’s “commitment and patience would be rewarded.”

“The longer we wait, the better our options get, and I think the board [of directors] realizes that,” Kliavkoff said. “There’s an underlying shift in the media market that’s happening. We’re long-term taking advantage of that. But short-term, it may have provided some hiccups.”

For the record:

11:47 a.m. July 21, 2023In a previous version of this article, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark was reported as saying that the Pac-12 was “open for business.” Yormark was referring to the Big 12.

Those hiccups have often played out in public view for the Pac-12. At last year’s conference football media day, Kliavkoff took a far more combative tone on realignment in light of comments from Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, who declared at his conference’s own media day that the Big 12 was “open for business.”

Rampant speculation over the Pac 12’s future has ensued, but the remaining 10 schools have so far remained intact.

More schools may still yet be added to that mix. The Pac-12 notably did its due diligence earlier this year on San Diego State and Southern Methodist as possible expansion candidates. But Kliavkoff reiterated Friday that no changes would be made to membership until the conference strikes a media rights deal.

When that deal might actually be announced is still anyone’s guess.