It wasn’t exactly the year Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff expected.
In a football season full of drama that saw disappointing outcomes for the conference’s various heavyweights, 2021 saw no great steps taken forward in national eyes.
The Pac-12’s reputation after going 0-5 in bowl games took another hit, somehow managing to place itself further down than previous years.
Football is king in this country, and Kliavkoff knew that from even before the moment he stepped into his current role as commissioner.
The Pac-12, possessing strong basketball programs, still needs to find a way to get it done on the gridiron.
In an interview with the L.A. Times’ J. Brady McCollough, Kliavkoff made his feelings on the matter very clear.
“For me, the biggest single issue is an ongoing effort on investing in football. The work of convincing our presidents and chancellors that there is very good return on investment when you invest in football was started by me before I started the job in my press conference when I was announced. I’ve had one board meeting in November, and it was on the agenda, and it will be on the agenda at every board meeting going forward,” said Kliavkoff.
“I think there’s an easy case to make. I don’t think it’s heavy lifting. You invest in football facilities and coaches and other football-related matters and that leads to higher-touted recruits, and that leads to wins, and wins lead to direct and indirect revenue. It certainly leads to significantly increased alumni engagement, and I think historically it leads to increased applications, which results in more selective admissions processes and higher ratings for the schools.
“The return on the investment in football is just undeniable, and I don’t think we have anyone in our organizations that doesn’t agree with that.”
With a coach such as Lincoln Riley joining the conference, that certainly figures to help with the Pac-12’s prominence down the road.
“In the last month or so, we’ve seen a bunch of our schools step up facilities and coaching investments that I think are historic for our conference and have already moved the needle in recruiting. I would say continuing that fight of getting our schools to invest is a worthy use of my time,” said Kliavkoff.
“At the same time, whenever you’re in the Pac-12 and you talk about investing in football or men’s basketball, you get folks who want to remind you that we’re the ‘Conference of Champions,’ and I tend to think that not only are they not mutually exclusive, they’re actually symbiotic.
“An investment in football and in men’s basketball elevates our opportunity in all sports. They can all be priorities. I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. (Laughs). We don’t have to make choices between those two.
“I’m excited about the future. I’m as impatient as our fans are, particularly coming off of this season in football. I am doing everything I can — and everyone else at the conference office is doing everything they can — to return Pac-12 football and men’s basketball to the glory that we currently enjoy in almost every other sport.”
At least basketball season is off to a good start, as the Pac-12 currently fields three teams in the AP Top 10: UCLA (No. 5), USC (No. 7) and Arizona (No. 8).
The conference fielded a handful of Elite Eight teams in last year’s tournament, and figures to again be a prominent player in the field this year.
We’ll see if football is able to follow suit any time soon.