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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff opened a window and by doing so, calmed the football climate for a while

Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Los Angeles.  (Associated Press)
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Los Angeles. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There is an old saying about a calm before the storm. But there is also a calm that often comes after one too. This morning in Spokane proved it.


• The thunder and lightning that rolled through the area overnight was accompanied, at our place at least, by a downpour or two. Or, as we called them back in the day, gully-washers. The amount of precipitation was impressive. As were nature’s aerial pyrotechnics.

Which brings us, not surprisingly, to the Pac-12.

No, it’s not a crazy leap, not in the sense of all the thunder and lightning – USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten – nor the precipitation – mirroring all the lamentations that followed among those left behind.

In both, this morning we awoke to calm. How could that be? In the weather sense, it’s normal. Storms pass through, cleanse the air and leave a fresh feeling. In the conference-realignment climate, money matters have done the same.

In the aftermath of the Los Angeles schools’ defections, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff played his trump card. He opened the 30-day window for renegotiating media deals with the current rights holders, ESPN and Fox. It was a gamble that bought the conference (a little) time and chased away the clouds.

But it’s not as if they dissipated. They just moved to the other side of the mountains and will return if the news is bad.

The remaining 10 members of Kliavkoff’s conference have to decided how to proceed. Do they stick together? Do they expand? Do they split apart? Do the explore individual or group options? All valid questions. All without great answers, especially if the information the answers are based upon are incomplete. Hence, the 30 days.

Kliavkoff is trying to find out who is interested, how deep the interest really is and, most importantly, how much money is available.

Does ESPN want to write off the western part of the country? Now that Fox has grabbed the L.A. market to a dominant degree, will the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader just give up on the Pacific Time Zone? Or does it want to fight back?

The gamble Kliavkoff faces is simple. If the 30-day window closes and he can show the 10 remaining schools there is plenty of money available to stay together, then he’s won – without having to do much else. But if the number is below expectations (and everyone’s expectations are different), the calm breaks and each school is on their own.

Of course, it isn’t really calm in Eugene or Pullman or Tucson. While the waters look placid, it’s not just Ducks who are churning away out of sight. Everyone is. Or should be. What if scenarios have to be dealt with, not just at the conference level but on each campus.

The sun may be shining today. The air might be tranquil. The storm may have passed. But the rough weather is not over. Not hardly. Clean out the gutters. Check the generator. Prep for what’s ahead. It could get rough.


WSU: We mentioned (and linked) Jon Wilner’s thoughts from a couple days ago in which he rated each Pac-12 school’s “fear index.” Today, we link the column in the S-R. … Wilner also reports on another wrinkle in the situation. The UC Board of Regents is finally talking about UCLA’s defection and litigation is on its agenda. … Thanks to notes from readers, we have a couple stories about local alumni to pass along this morning. The first concerns Henry Rono, the greatest runner Washington State ever had. The story comes from the New York Times. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, should the conference try to add Big 12 schools? If it doesn’t, will it survive? … Just how good will Oregon’s defense be? … One of Arizona State’s most transformative football coaches is mostly forgotten in the mists of time. … John Canzano has some thoughts on ESPN’s role in the Pac-12’s future.

Gonzaga: Theo Lawson invaded the Pacers’ locker room to find out more about Andrew Nembhard and his appeal to his Indiana teammates. He also watched Nembhard’s second Las Vegas summer league game. … The loosened rules concerning name, image and likeness are opening opportunities throughout the collegiate landscape. Amber D. Dodd tells us how Dominick Harris has decided to capitalize on his. … As we said in the WSU section, we have two stories on local alums to pass along, courtesy of readers. The second has to do with John Rillie, who is leaving UC Santa Barbara for home. He will coach in Australia.

Preps: Speaking of local alums, Lewis and Clark High’s Briann January will be inducted into Arizona State’s Sports Hall of Fame. That news leads off the S-R’s latest local briefs column. … Amber returns with another news story this morning concerning the nonprofit Rise Above’s second annual sports clinic for Indigenous children.  

Indians: Spokane’s latest road trip started in fine fashion. The Indians rolled to a 9-0 win in Eugene. … If you’ve wondered what happened to Recyleman, Treva Lind has the answer. Alas, the live-action mascot has retired.

Golf: It’s time. Time for the Rosauers Open Invitational at Indian Canyon. Jim Meehan has a preview of this weekend’s 54-hole event.

Mariners: There is a doubleheader in Washington D.C. today. It was made necessary by thunderstorms that rolled through the area last night. Julio Rodriguez, the American League’s rookie of the year favorite, will sit the first game (suspension from the brawl). … An All-Star Game roster spot opened. Ty France didn’t get it. … Can the Mariners really stay in the postseason mix this year? Larry Stone has your answer.

Kraken: Seattle is holding a developmental camp. Shane Wright is in attendance. … Free agency looms and it will be important.

Storm: A strong second half allowed Seattle to return after the all-star break with a win over Dallas.

Sounders: Yes, Albert Rusnak is living up to expectations.


• The noise last night was startling. And scary for our dogs. If we weren’t so tired, we probably would have stood guard over them, as they do us every night. But, alas, as soon as the noise abated, we fell fast asleep – on the couch. They hid in the basement. It seemed a fair arrangement. Until later …

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