While there are plenty of vicious moves in college conference realignment, it’s rare to see conference commissioners openly discuss that another conference might be a target for them to raid. That’s at least partly what Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff did at Pac-12 Media Day Friday, though. A reporter asked Klaivkoff a question of “What gives you confidence that the 10 remaining schools are going to stay in this conference?”, following a prelude that referenced an “open for business” comment from Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark and a comment from Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren that that conference might look to expand further as well (after previously taking USC and UCLA from the Pac-12). And Kliavkoff responded with quite the remark about Yormark’s comment:
Here’s video that aired on ESPN’s SportsCenter Friday of both that question and answer from Kliavkoff, as well as a later question and answer:
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff: "With respect to the Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate that. We haven't decided if we're going shopping there yet or not." pic.twitter.com/CnIken1uwx
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) July 29, 2022
The second question there is “Do you think the days of trying to be collegial when it comes to expansion are over?” That led to quite the response from Kliavkoff:
“I hope they’re not over, but they’re certainly harmed. That remark was a reflection of the fact that I’ve been spending four weeks trying to defend against grenades lobbed in from every corner of the Big 12, trying to destabilize our remaining conference. I understand why they’re doing it. When you look at the relative media value between the two conferences, I get it, I get why they’re scared. I get why they’re trying to destabilize us. I was just tired of that. Yeah, that’s probably not the most collegial thing I’ve ever said.”
Twitter had quite the reactions to Kliavkoff’s remarks. Some saw his discussion here as a sign of insecurity, especially with his claim that the Pac-12 media rights are stronger (they are not currently in terms of per-school distributions, and it’s unclear what both conference’s media rights will look like in the next round with so much uncertainty about who’s even in each conference):ere’s the specific discussion of “grenades”:
Kliavkoff is clearly nervous about the Big 12. You don't make those comments unless there is some fear there and then choose to take the high road elsewhere.
— Jason Scheer (@jasonscheer) July 29, 2022
Kliavkoff's body language sucked. He was visibly angry and rattled.
He can only say so much. Basically said he trusts the schools and what they're saying
Pac-12 is going to try to get Apple, Amazon, Hulu involved. Only path to survival.
— Jason Scheer (@jasonscheer) July 29, 2022
Kliavkoff has done a great job over the last hour of eroding any belief the P12 is going to survive this.
— PodKATT (@valleyshook) July 29, 2022
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff's comments about the Big 12 on Friday came off as desperate and defensive… https://t.co/I1fDeRiAvH
— Matt Tait (@mctait) July 29, 2022
George Kliavkoff when he hears someone say the Big 12 is better than the Pac-12 pic.twitter.com/bWY8uCXx2K
— Tom Turner (@tom_turner00) July 29, 2022
Others weren’t impressed with his specific target of the Big 12:
Can someone explain why Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is seemingly MORE upset with the Big 12 instead of the Big Ten… ya know, the conference that actually poached his two teams and cost his league hundreds of millions of dollars?
— Heartland College Sports (@Heartland_CS) July 29, 2022
Bold choice by Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff to try and attack the Big 12 and not the Big Ten — the conference that already took two of its members, maybe more.
Kliavkoff sees the Big 12 as a threat, which should mean it is in a good position for the future.
— Cody Nagel (@CodyNagel247) July 29, 2022
And some took exception to his claim that now is when “collegiality” has been lost, considering some of the nastiness in previous rounds of realignment:
Bingo. Kliavkoff's "up until very recently everything was great" should be read "I was fine with everybody stabbing each other in the back until I got stabbed" https://t.co/e8riQ3gtkw
— The Scott & Holman Pawdcast (@SHPawdcast) July 29, 2022
But there were also just a lot of comments on how rare it is to see a sitting commissioner publicly target a specific other conference as a potential source of expansion:
Gloves off here at Pac-12 media day: Kliavkoff accuses Big 12 of trying to "destablize" his conference. Basically confirms Big 12 outreach to various schools.
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 29, 2022
Probably won’t mean much in the long run, but love Kliavkoff taking the gloves off with the Big 12. They are the only power conference to a) never win a playoff game & b) only put one team in the playoff. And that team is leaving.
— Andy Johnson (@TheDirtJohnson) July 29, 2022
George Kliavkoff talked Friday with the gloves off and zero punches pulled. https://t.co/exzsnM04Qb
— Arizona Daily Star (@TucsonStar) July 29, 2022
We’ll see what this leads to for Kliavkoff and the Pac-12.
[Awful Announcing; photo from Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports]