The Pac-12 announced Thursday that George Kliavkoff has been named its new commissioner. Kliavkoff will take over the conference on July 1 after earning unanimous support from all 12 Pac-12 presidents and chancellors. He replaces Larry Scott, who was let go in January after serving in the role since 2009.
If you have never heard of Kliavkoff before, you’re not alone as he is a neophyte to the college athletics space. He comes to the Pac-12 after serving as the president of entertainment & sports for MGM Resorts International, a role he has held since 2018. He also served as a member on the WNBA’s Board of Governors, BetMGM and Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group during his time at MGM Resorts International.
“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. “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 was previously the executive vice president of business with MLB Advanced Media from 2003-06, the chief digital officer at NBCUniversal from 2006-08 and a board member and interim CEO at Hulu from 2007-08. He was also previously a board member for A&E from 2013-16.
“At each step of his career, George has navigated complex, quickly changing environments and has been a successful consensus builder. 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,” said Oregon president Michael H. Schill, chair of the five-member search committee.
“He is the new prototype for a sports commissioner. While George has deep sports experience, his biggest asset is his ability to listen, connect with diverse groups, find common ground, collaborate and navigate an evolving landscape. We believe George’s overall skills and experience will become even more prevalent in college sports leadership.”
This is an interesting hire for the Pac-12. The popularity in sports gambling as increased over the last five years as several states have begun to allow sports betting. Kliavkoff’s ties to the industry certainly indicated that the conference could be taking a more proactive approach to its popularity. Coupled with his experience in the world of streaming and entertainment, that indicates the conference had a forward-thinking approach to this decision.
His hire comes a tumultuous time for the conference. Scott’s rollout of the regional Pac-12 Networks didn’t match that of the SEC, Big Ten and ACC. The Pac-12 also hasn’t placed a team in the College Football Playoff since 2016 (Washington) and has largely become irrelevant in major college athletics.