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Pac-12 hires MGM Resorts executive as next commissioner

Updated May 13, 2021 - 5:27 pm

When the Pac-12 went looking for its next commissioner, the conference came to Las Vegas, where it has deep ties, and on Thursday hired George Kliavkoff, a familiar face.

As president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts, Kliavkoff worked with the Pac-12, resulting in the conference annually staging its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Las Vegas and its football championship at Allegiant Stadium the next two years.

Kliavkoff also helped secure NCAA championship events for Las Vegas and oversaw the Aces before WNBA team was sold to Raiders owner Mark Davis in January.

Kliavkoff, 54, signed a five-year contract with the Pac-12 and begins July 1, replacing Larry Scott.

“What drew us to George was his ability to see where the hockey puck was going to go,” said Oregon President Michael H. Schill, who chaired the search committee. “It attracted all of us to him. Intercollegiate athletics in general and the Pac-12 specifically is at a critical crossroads. We believe that George is the right person to meet today’s challenges and even more importantly the challenges of the future.”

For Las Vegas, Kliavkoff also helped land the 2023 NCAA Division I men’s basketball regional and 2026 Division I men’s hockey Final Four, both of which will be played at T-Mobile Arena.

Allegiant Stadium also could be in line for a future Super Bowl, College Football Playoff National Championship and Final Four. Kliavkoff’s successor will have to help navigate the challenges of securing such events.

“Las Vegas has become one of the country’s most exciting hubs for collegiate sporting events and has built deep ties with the PAC-12,” MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in a statement. “With George as a trusted partner, MGM Resorts looks forward to strengthening that bond even further.”

The MGM bought the Aces more than three years ago when they were in San Antonio. Kliavkoff later was the lead negotiator in selling the team to Davis.

“No. 1, he was very knowledgeable about sports,” Davis said. “No. 2, he was a tough negotiator, but I think was a fair negotiator. It was fun, and since that time, we’ve gotten along great and he’s been very helpful to us.”

Kliavkoff heads to the Pac-12 as it trie to regain its position among college athletics’ elite.

The Pac-12 hasn’t won a men’s basketball national championship since 1997, though three teams this year made the Elite Eight and beyond. The conference hasn’t won football title since 2004, and it last placed a team in the four-team playoff field in 2016.

“We know where the bread is buttered,” Kliavkoff said. “We’re focused on the revenue sports and winning in men’s basketball and football.”

Kliavkoff said he will advocate expanding the football playoff field and examine all areas for the conference to improve. He also is behind ensuring that athletes benefit financially from name, image and likeness, calling it a recruiting edge for the Pac-12.

His other challenge will be to improve the Pac-12’s exposure.

Kliavkoff, a journalism major at Boston University, served in executive roles with several media companies, including Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

“Today, the Pac-12 Network has far fewer subscribers than any other comparable network, and we have to fix that,” Kliavkoff said.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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