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Sports >  NCAA

Pac-12 commissioner search: Gloria Nevarez reportedly signs extension with WCC as interview process approaches

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Cross another name off the list of potential candidates for the Pac-12 commissioner post: Gloria Nevarez has agreed to a contract extension with the West Coast Conference, according to a source.

An announcement of Nevarez’s extension — she took charge of the WCC in 2018 after many years at the Pac-12 — is expected soon.

Meanwhile, Pac-12 presidents and chancellors are giving serious consideration to following the same general model they used 12 years ago, when Larry Scott was hired from the Women’s Tennis Association.

As the process enters its fourth month, here’s what we know:

(Note: All information has been confirmed by multiple sources familiar with the process.)

— The search firm, TurnkeyZRG, is currently vetting as many as eight or 10 candidates, with interviews expected to start in the next week or two.

“No decision (is) imminent,” one source explained.

Pac-12 presidents were hoping to name a replacement in time for Scott, whose tenure ends in June, to help with the transition.

But as one source said: “How often in any profession do the outgoing and incoming executives really work together? That stuff never happens.”

— Four college sports veterans with ties to the Pac-12 are not candidates: Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Nevarez.

What about Oliver Luck?

The former West Virginia athletic director, NCAA executive vice president and commissioner of the XFL is believed by some to possess the skill set that would appeal to the broadest sweep of presidents.

The Hotline has been unable to confirm that Luck is involved … or that he has been eliminated from consideration.

Turnkey has lived up to its reputation for secrecy, with help from the tip-lipped Pac-12 presidents. If the process has identified a few preferred candidates at this stage, their names have remained private.

“They have been pretty hush-hush,” a source said.

— The presidents have ruled out hiring someone from within the conference (e.g., a current athletic director).

Said one source: “No one connected to the Pac-12 or Larry” is under consideration.

However, there is no consensus on the candidate model; not all the presidents believe that a background in college sports, and college football specifically, is of paramount importance.

In fact, four sources briefed on the process told the Hotline that strong consideration is being given to executives from the sports business world — either professional sports leagues or the sports media industry.

In every case, the emphasis is on candidates with expertise in revenue generation.

Len Perna, the CEO of TurnkeyZRG, has connections throughout the pro sports, media and entertainment worlds.

“Right now, the other stuff doesn’t matter,” a source said, referring to Name, Image and Likeness legislation and other changes to the NCAA model.

“It’s a revenue job, and you aren’t going to do that by selling T-shirts at the conference championship game.”

(The presidents seemed to signal their interest in a business executive with the wording of the job description.)

However, there is some resistance within the conference to that strategy given that Scott was hired from the professional sports world and struggled to forge relationships with the athletic directors.

In addition, the Pac-12 often appeared to operate upside down during Scott’s tenure, with the conference office, not the schools, as the focal point.

“There is so much change coming to college sports, and the commissioner has to navigate it,” a source said. “You do that with collaboration.

“If that means hiring a consultant to handle the media rights, fine. But they can’t do Larry Scott all over again.”

Another source noted the importance of leadership, particularly with regard to football policy and strategy.

“We need someone who isn’t afraid to make a decision and doesn’t need consensus, someone who takes the input from everyone and then says, ‘I’m going to decide, and you need to trust me.’’’

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