Pac-12 commish punches back in realignment fight | #students | #parents

LOS ANGELES — George Kliavkoff rubbed his eyes with one hand, uncorked a bottle of water and repositioned himself on a red velvet sofa inside the green room on the fourth floor of a swanky theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

“Sorry, I’m tired,” he told a reporter.

The Pac-12 Conference commissioner had one more media obligation at his conference’s media day inside The Norvo Theatre, where a month of behind-the-scenes drama was distilled into a seven-hour marathon of questions and conversations about the uncertain future of his conference. Two pillars of the Pac-12 are leaving for the Big Ten — USC and UCLA — in a move that can aptly be described as unexpected and shocking, and ensuing efforts to fend off vultures swooping from the east to pick at the meat remaining on the Pac-12’s bones has taken a toll on Kliavkoff. Earlier in the day he tossed a few jabs at the Big Ten and Big 12, the conferences attempting to dismantle the West Coast’s strongest coalition of football schools. 

“I’ve been spending four weeks trying to defend against grenades that have been lobbed in from every corner of the Big 12 trying to destabilize our remaining conference,” Kliavkoff said. “I understand why they’re doing it, when you look the relative media value between the two conferences. I get it, I get why they’re scared, why they’re trying to destabilize it.”

Hours later, he wasn’t finished throwing punches in a one-on-one interview with 247Sports.

Kliavkoff, a former media executive at Hulu and NBC, is still one of the new kids on the commissioner block and he’s obviously still learning the ropes of the undersold and unrelenting cut-throat world of college athletics. He learned of USC and UCLA’s defections to the Big Ten just on the eve of his one-year anniversary on the job in a move that didn’t just shock fans but also the Pac-12 commissioner. He went to work in the aftermath and remained silent for nearly one month, rallying the troops in his conference and receiving emergency approval from leadership to enter early negotiations for a more lucrative new media rights deal that could keep the conference afloat and viable in this transformative era of super conferences and billion-dollar contracts.

“Doesn’t it feel a little bit like a juvenile kind of attempt to disrupt our conference?” Kliavkoff told 247Sports.

Kliavkoff was tired of the month of rumors projecting the Pac-12’s demise and dissolution. The four corners were under attack, with the Pac-12 South’s remaining members (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah) targeted as potential members for the Big 12. Reports surfaced Wednesday the Big Ten may not be finished raiding the West Coast. CBS Sports reported Cal, Stanford, Oregon and Washington are now targeted as future members. Meanwhile, Big 12 presidents and chancellors are actively recruiting Pac-12 schools, Kliavkoff told 247Sports, and those cat calls from the Texas-based conference are not slowing down despite Kliavkoff’s personal requests for cooperation from Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark.

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