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Pat Chun and Pac-12 athletic directors meet with new conference commissioner

George Kliavkoff has yet to officially take on the title of Pac-12 commissioner, but he’s already started to get his feet wet.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a big few months for the NCAA.

In the middle of may, congress began discussing a federal bill that would guide the organization’s policy on name, image and likeness rules. Then, just a few days ago, the United State Supreme Court publicly rebuked the NCAA for violating antitrust laws in another win for student-athlete compensation.

It’s clear change is coming for college sports. Here on the west coast, a new leader will be charged with guiding the Pac-12 into these unchartered water.

On July 1, George Kliavkoff will take over as Pac-12 Commissioner, relieving Larry Scott of his duties after 12 years. The hiring of the MGM executive with no prior experience in college athletics left some Pac-12 fans scratching their heads. But the leaders in charge of the hire, including Washington State president Kirk Schultz, were undaunted by that lack of experience.

“If somebody comes in and doesn’t have the experience and sort of has some swagger about it and says I know all this stuff, you’ve got to question, ‘Is that it?’” Schulz told Theo Lawson of the Spokesman Review. “If somebody comes in and says, ‘I don’t know about this, but here’s the approach I’m going to take. I’m going to hire a staff that know that area to provide advice.’”

Schulz went on to praise Kliavkoff’s willingness to listen to people within the conference and collaborate with them on fixing their issues, something Scott was criticized for not doing more of.

And, as it turns out, Kliavkoff’s promise to listen and act is something that other conference officials are talking about as well.

Last week, the conference’s athletic directors traveled to Las Vegas to meet with Kliavkoff. The discussion was informal and acted as more of an ice breaker than anything else.

While no public comment from the AD’s or Kliavkoff was released, Jon Wilner of the Pac-12 Hotline did reach out to some of the athletic directors, including Chun, to get their thoughts on the new conference commissioner.

“It was an important meeting for the ADs,” Chun told Wilner. “We’re all in agreement that the new commissioner has to be successful. And we made a decision collectively to meet before his term started. There’s too much on the line to go through a feeling-out period. This helps to start to align us.”

The athletic directors went on to talk about the character of Kliavkoff, commenting on his warmth, authenticity and willingness to listen.

“The only thing I’d heard about George prior to the meeting was how nice he is, and after spending the day with him, I can see why people said that,” Chun said.

As for his lack of experience? Well, much like the presidents and chancellors in charge of the hire, the AD’s weren’t too worried either.

“You got a better understanding of his broad experiences,” Chun said of his meeting. “What he did with the Las Vegas Aces, what he did on the sports betting side with MGM. He does bring a unique tool belt.”

“He has handled major entertainment and sports events and been involved in the media end,” Arizona AD Dave Heeke told Wilner. “Those mega-events have a lot of stakeholders, and you have to put a deal together to make it work for everybody, connect the stakeholders to make sure everybody is successful.”

The full article is well worth a read on the Pac-12 Hotline to get a better idea of who Kliavkoff is. But to summarize: For the first time in a long time, conference leadership is excited about their commissioner, and optimistic about the direction he is heading.

And that’s a great thing for the Pac-12.

Pac-12 ADs discuss meeting George Kliavkoff in Las Vegas
The athletic directors began laying the foundation for a strong working relationship with the new commissioner by meeting with Kliavkoff in Las Vegas.

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