Mailbag: ‘Pac-2’ leadership options, the blame game (Scott vs. Kliavkoff), Pac-12 board moves, CFP scenarios, emergency funds and more

There’s an obvious in-house candidate, and it’s not the current commish

The Pac-12 Hotline is excited to bring Pac-12 fans a regular look at the recruiting process through the eyes and ears of Brandon Huffman, the national recruiting editor for 247Sports based in Seattle. On October 12, he submitted the following report…

Please keep in mind that some of the questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.

So it seems we may have a two-team conference next year while things play out. If that happens, who is going to be commissioner? Do they even need one? — @brycetacoma

We appreciate the question because it allows us to address two issues at once: why George Kliavkoff is still the Pac-12 commissioner and who would lead a ‘Pac-2’ if Washington State and Oregon State compete separately in 2024.

The Hotline has received numerous inquiries about Kliavkoff’s continued employment since he led the conference to disaster in early August, losing all credibility with, well, everyone. Nobody is motivated to let him go, in our opinion.

The two remaining schools are not seeking strategic advice from Kliavkoff as they plan their future.

And the ten relocating schools don’t require his strategic counsel as they enter new leagues.

However, each of the Pac-12’s 12 schools requires someone to oversee the conference’s current competition season and represent the conference on national committees (for example, the College Football Playoff).

Furthermore, if terminated, Kliavkoff would be owed $10 million (approximately), and no one wants to pay something for nothing and then throw that money away.

So, essentially, he remains in place due to inertia.

What about ‘Pac-2’ conference leadership if the Cougars and Beavers compete separately in the 2024-25 sports season?

True, they may not require a league. Everything about their athletic existence would be streamlined to the point where they could potentially handle operational matters such as officiating and negotiate their own broadcast deals with local television stations.

If a conference structure is deemed necessary, Teresa Gould, the Pac-12’s current deputy commissioner, is the obvious choice.

Gould has been an athletic director (UC Davis), worked for a Pac-12 school (Cal), and is familiar with campus issues. She’s more than qualified to run a smaller conference.

She’s more than qualified to take over the 12-school league today.

Having said that, it appears unlikely that Gould would be the commissioner of a completely rebuilt Pac-12. Our assumption is that a restructured conference with several or all Mountain West schools would be led by current MW commissioner Gloria Nevarez.

And Nevarez is well-versed in the Pac-12, having worked as an executive under former commissioner Larry Scott.

To put it another way, whatever shape the conference takes beginning next summer, there are two viable leadership options.

Who is more culpable in the Pac-12’s demise, former commissioner Larry Scott or current commissioner George Kliavkoff? — @NILvsNLI

It’s natural to blame someone for the demise of a 108-year-old college sports institution.

Unfortunately, that is a difficult task. The decline lasted a dozen years. Many people were involved.

The Hotline outlined the 12 strategic mistakes that led to the implosion the morning after five schools left. And we explained last week how every departing school’s fingerprints are on the corpse.

Scott and Kliavkoff are certainly to blame, but not to the same extent as the university presidents who oversaw the conference and produced an astonishing mix of indifference, ignorance, and incompetence.

They deserve the majority of the blame, and that is beyond dispute in our humble opinion.

Scott took the keys to his car, stepped on the gas, and drove straight for the cliff.

Kliavkoff took over with a quarter mile to go and finished the job, despite missing several off-ramps in that critical final stretch.

They both made one bad move after another.

What’s truly remarkable is that, after firing Scott in the winter of 2021, the presidents ignored the warning signs and hired a replacement who was equally unqualified.

They required someone who understood college athletics, had extensive industry contacts, and understood the importance of relationships. They were 0-3 in Kliavkoff.

As a result, we would assign the following blame:

Presidents (51%).

25% Kliavkoff

Scott: 24%

What happened to the $40 million emergency fund, and who authorized tapping it? — @scottsdaleazwsu

The presidents have control over the emergency reserves (as well as all financial assets) and must approve their use.

The Pac-12 had $42.7 million in net assets at the end of the fiscal year 2022. The reserves were included in that total, but the percentage is unknown.

What we do know is that the presidents approved the use of reserves to offset revenue lost due to the Comcast overpayment debacle, according to multiple sources. As a result, the emergency funds have been depleted.

With the news about Kliavkoff removing USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 board, what do you expect from the lawsuit Washington State and Oregon State filed against the conference? — @ryan_silva88

Because some readers may be unfamiliar, let us summarize the most recent development:

The Hotline discovered Kliavkoff, under penalty of perjury, stated in July that the Los Angeles schools had been removed from the Pac-12 board of directors.

The revelation could be significant in the lawsuit filed by Oregon State and Washington State over board control.

Why? Because it sets a precedent.

OSU and WSU believe that the board’s composition should not change based on the number of schools that have announced their resignations:

If USC and UCLA were removed after announcing their intentions to join the Big Ten, as Kliavkoff’s court declaration suggests, the other eight schools should be removed as well.

We continue to believe that a settlement is the most likely outcome of the lawsuit, especially given that the two sides have entered mediation.

However, it is clear that the ten departing schools are attempting to stall the legal process.

Time is of the essence for WSU and OSU, which must plan for the 2024 season. (A 12-game football schedule is at the top of their priority list.)

A trial would take months to complete. The defendants appear to hope that by prolonging the litigation, they will force the plaintiffs to settle.

If Washington State and Oregon State were to rebuild the Pac-12, are there enough schools they can add that will make it Power Five worthy? — @CelestialMosh


The College Football Playoff is in charge of the Power Five designation. We don’t see how whatever conference houses the Beavers and Cougars — whether it’s a ‘Pac-2,’ a ‘Pac-8,’ or a fully rebuilt Pac-12 — can keep that label.

The objections of the Big Ten, SEC, and Big 12 would be enough to deprive the league of the coveted designation.

But keep in mind that the CFP will award an automatic bid to the top-ranked school outside the Power Four. Whoever wins the restructured league has a great chance of earning a spot.

Here’s a scenario: Team A has no losses, Team B has one loss and Team C has two losses. Then Team A beats Team B in the championship game. Does Team B get the automatic bid to the New Year’s Six when Team A gets into the playoff? — @RockDawg3

Based on past performance, we expect Team B to maintain its position in the CFP rankings and thus earn a spot in the New Year’s Six.

The selection committee does not usually punish the loser of a conference championship game.

Exceptions have been made based on blowout losses and head-to-head results.

For example, in 2016, Colorado lost the Pac-12 championship game to Washington and thus lost its New Year’s Six spot to USC, but the move was easily justified because the Trojans defeated CU during the regular season.

Last year, USC lost in the championship game to Utah but still received a Cotton Bowl bid.

If Washington State and Oregon State win the lawsuit with the other 10 schools and ultimately are found to be the rightful owners of all Pac-12 assets, will they also be the only two schools involved in the overpayment lawsuit with Comcast? @Marc_The_Duck

Comcast is withholding $72 million in payments to the Pac-12 in order to make itself whole. This sum is divided into two categories:

— Comcast withheld distributions to offset ten years of overpayments (2013-22) based on the company’s flawed tracking of Pac-12 Networks subscribers. This amounts to $58 million.

— Distribution cuts in the fiscal years 2023-24 to account for a correction in subscriber figures. The total amount is $14 million.

The withholding procedure is scheduled to be completed early next year.

As far as we know, the Comcast issue will be resolved before the conference disbands next summer. If WSU and OSU decide to rebuild the league, they will have no liability.

Texas Tech vs. Baylor and TCU vs. Iowa State both drew less than 500,000 viewers last Saturday.  Are they telling us Oregon State and Washington State can’t consistently beat that number? — @MeyersMustache

The realignment game heavily relies on the word’s root: *alignment.

In the CFP era, Washington State’s viewership numbers are higher than those of any Pac-12 school moving into the Big 12 and many of the existing Big 12 schools.

However, alignment also includes geography. Neither Corvallis nor Pullman are well-suited to Big 12 life, at least not to the extent of the Four Corners universities, which border the Big 12 footprint.

Iowa State and Texas Tech have the advantage of being in the Big 12 already. Their audience size is unimportant. Their credibility is not being tested.

Granted, the Pac-12 schools headed to the Big Ten and ACC aren’t geographically well suited for their new leagues, but they bring something compelling — whether it’s their football brand, media market, or, in the case of the Bay Area schools, academic reputations.

WSU and OSU lack a single compelling aspect to create the required alignment.

Whenever the ACC starts to dissolve, which four schools are most likely to join the Big 12? — Jim Skinner

That result is unavoidable, but that’s a topic for another column.

Fortunately, the ACC’s future was included in our look at the future of college football. It was published 13 months ago and is still relevant today.

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