Pac-12 hires MGM executive George Kliavkoff as commissioner

George Kliavkoff, the president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts International, has been hired as the next commissioner of the Pac-12, the conference announced Thursday.

Kliavkoff, 54, will begin a five-year contract July 1 after receiving unanimous support from the Pac-12's president and chancellors, the conference said in a release.

"I am thrilled to be the Pac-12 Commissioner. This is a challenging time for intercollegiate athletics, but I believe these challenges also create significant opportunities," Kliavkoff said in a statement. "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. My job at the Pac-12 will be to help manage the balance between continued academic excellence, student-athlete well-being and an even higher level of athletic achievement."

Kliavkoff replaces Larry Scott, who had been the commissioner since 2009. The Pac-12 announced in January that Scott's tenure would end in June, with roughly a year left on his contract, and that he was expected to assist in the transition to a new commissioner. Scott said in a statement that he looked forward to working with Kliavkoff to ensure a "smooth transition."

Kliavkoff on Thursday touched upon several areas that he believes the Pac-12 needs to address, including the expansion of the College Football Playoff and the changing landscape related to name, image and likeness.

"I want to go on the record that the Pac-12 is in favor of both the expansion of the College Football Playoff's four teams and the implementation of consistent guidelines for name, image and likeness," Kliavkoff said during his introductory news conference. "We think that both CFB expansion and NIL legislation are good for college sports fans, good for our student athletes and can be a significant competitive advantage for the Pac-12."

The Pac-12's inability to be a consistent participant in the playoff since it was introduced in 2014 has been one of the key factors in the conference's diminished national relevancy in recent years.

Kliavkoff said member schools need the conference's support to reverse that trend.

"The greatest weakness, if we're being honest with ourselves, is the number of years it's been since we won a football or men's basketball championship," Kliavkoff said. "We're gonna do everything we can at the conference level to fix that."

There is no cure-all solution, but Kliavkoff mentioned nonconference games, kickoff times, increased revenue and improved recruiting as areas that can be addressed.

"We know where our bread is buttered," Kliavkoff said. "We're focused on the revenue sports and winning in football and men's basketball."

Under Scott's leadership, the conference remained a powerhouse in several sports, but its success in football and men's basketball was limited. No Pac-12 team won a national title in either sport, and just two -- Oregon, in 2017, and UCLA this year -- reached the men's Final Four.

An executive search committee of Washington State president Kirk Schulz, Washington president Ana Mari Cauce and Oregon president Michael Schill, along with search firm TurnkeyZRG, led to Kliavkoff's hiring.

"At each step of his career, George has navigated complex, quickly changing environments and has been a successful consensus builder," Schill said in a statement. "George is a visionary leader with an extraordinary background as a pioneering sports, entertainment and digital media executive, and we are delighted and honored that he has agreed to become our next Pac-12 Commissioner."

Scott was hired as commissioner of what was then the Pac-10 in July 2009, after previously serving as chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association. During his tenure, the conference expanded to include Utah and Colorado in 2011 and added a football championship game. Those additions helped secure a 12-year, $3 billion media rights deal with Fox and ESPN in 2011 that set the standard for college sports at the time.

Scott's tenure will be largely defined by the creation of the Pac-12 Network in 2012, which has been marred by distribution issues throughout its existence, and contributed to a widening revenue gap between the conference and its Power 5 peers. While Pac-12 revenue has steadily risen in recent years -- the conference distributed more than $32 million per school after the 2018-19 academic year -- its numbers lag behind the Big Ten ($55 million per school) and SEC ($45 million per school), which partnered with Fox and ESPN, respectively.