Pac-12 commissioner cautions of ‘harm’ from USC, UCLA departures

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff took an optimistic approach in his address at the opening of the conference’s media day Friday, while also chastising Southern California and UCLA for what he characterized as a money grab over their impending moves to the Big Ten.

While USC and UCLA will continue to participate in Pac-12 athletics for the next two academic years, their conference opponents starting in 2024 all will reside in the Midwest or in the East.

“Increased revenue can help us support our student-athletes but a singular focus on money will certainly cause more harm than good,” Kliavkoff said.

Some of that harm for student-athletes, according to Kliavkoff, could come in the form of longer travel for the departing programs, which now ill be subject to more difficult travel requirements.

“Our long-term measure for the success of college athletics cannot be how much money we consolidate into 10 or five or two conferences, but rather should be our ability to support the largest number of student-athletes while still facilitating competition between schools and conferences,” Kliavkoff said in prepared remarks. “We should be measuring how many lives we can change.”

But he stopped short of burning a bridge in the relationship with both Los Angeles-based schools, particularly with UCLA.

“There are a lot of constituents related to UCLA who are very, very, very unhappy with the decision,” he said. “Student-athletes, the families of student-athletes. The faculty, the staff. The politicians, the fans, the alumni. There’s a lot of really, really upset people with that decision …

“I think it is unlikely. But if they come back, we welcome them back.”

While the Pac-12 is actively exploring the addition of new member schools, it also is not done with the Los Angeles area despite the upcoming departure of the only two Division I football programs in the region.

“Southern California is really important to us,” Kliavkoff said. “I think there are different ways of approaching staying part of Southern California. We may end up playing a lot of football games in L.A.”