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Pac-12 media rights negotiations: Waiting for UCLA, and welcoming Deion Sanders


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LAS VEGAS — Last week, commissioner George Kliavkoff indicated the Pac-12's ongoing, all-important media rights negotiations would not be resolved until early in 2023.

On Wednesday, he offered an explanation for the timing.

Speaking at a college athletics forum hosted by the Sports Business Journal, Kliavkoff said the conference is waiting for resolution on UCLA's planned move to the Big Ten.

The University of California Board of Regents was expected to decide whether to approve or rescind the move last month. Instead, the regents pushed back their decision to Dec. 14.

Kliavkoff said it wouldn't make sense to finalize a media rights deal without knowing if the Bruins will be allowed to proceed with their departure in the summer of 2024.

If UCLA remains in the Pac-12, the league's valuation would increase substantially by creating access to the Los Angeles media market for interested network partners.

Once the regents issue a decision next week, the holiday season will make finalizing a media deal impossible.

"The media (business) takes the second half of December off," Kliavkoff said.

There has been no change to the process, he added. Once a media rights deal is reached with the networks, the conference will ask its schools to sign a grant-of-rights agreement. Then comes a decision on expansion.

"There's no rush, and no need for a rush," Kliavkoff said. "We are the last Power Five conference with our rights available for the next eight years."

Kliavkoff also suggested that by waiting, the conference was able to add a football coach before consummating the media rights deal: Deion Sanders, the sports icon, was hired by Colorado last weekend and generated instant attention for the CU program.

"He absolutely adds value (for the conference)," Kliavkoff said.

His comments came during the day-long college athletics forum, which featured conversations with the Power Five commissioners and other industry leaders.

Naturally, realignment was a consistent topic.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren was asked if his conference has finished expanding. His response: "For now."

Later, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed the state of his league.

"We're focused on our growth to 16," he said, referring to the arrivals of Texas and Oklahoma in 2025. "We think we're really well-positioned."

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips was next on the stage.

"We're always assessing our institutions, assessing if there are moves that benefit the ACC long-term," he said. "We all understand bigger doesn't always necessarily mean better."

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, who has made no secret of his desire to add schools in the Pacific Time Zone, struck a slightly different tone.

"It's got to be the right fit," he said, "and it's got to be the right cultural fit …

"Over the course of the not-too-distant future, we expect things to happen."

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Jon Wilner
Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.

Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at jwilner@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Pac-12 Hotline: Subscribe to the Pac-12 Hotline Newsletter. Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

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