Wilner Hotline – Pac-12 Commish on Lincoln Riley Hire “Can do Nothing But Only Help the Conference”

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LAS VEGAS — Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff lauded the coaching moves made recently by several schools as the carousel spins at a dizzying rate.

“The news from the last week was terrific,” he said prior to the conference championship at Allegiant Stadium, “and it wasn’t just the news from USC, although that was fantastic.”

The Trojans made the marquee hire, luring Lincoln Riley, a three-time playoff participant, away from Oklahoma.

But Washington picked Kalen DeBoer from Fresno State, Oregon State locked up Jonathan Smith with a contract extension, and Washington State promoted interim Jake Dickert to the permanent job.

In addition, Arizona State confirmed that Herm Edwards will return next season, and UCLA seemingly moved closer to retaining Chip Kelly.

But the carousel hasn’t stopped spinning. Reports surfaced Friday that Miami is targeting Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who played for the Hurricanes and is from Miami.

Sources believe the Hurricanes are preparing an offer for Cristobal that could double his current salary of $4.3 million (approximately). And if Cristobal stays in Eugene, he would assuredly receive a huge contract extension, per a report from the Oregonian.

The skyrocketing salaries across college football result, in part, from Michigan State coach Mel Tucker’s recent deal. Tucker, who has never won a division title, much less a conference championship, signed a 10-year agreement reportedly worth $95 million.

That deal immediately increased leverage for the top-tier coaches like Riley, whose salary from USC is believed to be above $10 million per year — far more than any Pac-12 school has ever paid on an annual basis.

Kliavkoff was careful not to single out USC as the most important football program when asked about the impact the Riley hire could have on the conference.

Nor did he deny the general premise that a high-profile head coach at one school can elevate the collective.

And in this case, the school with the marquee coach is located in the nation’s No. 2 media market and owns seven AP national championships.

“They see the value of investing in coaches,” he said. “It’s kind of obvious.”

The Riley hire “can do nothing but help the conference. I think it raises the profile for all the schools when one school does that.”

The move has paid immediate dividends in recruiting. In the past five days, the Trojans have landed commitments from three five-star prospects, all based in Southern California.

Kliavkoff is paying careful attention to the pipeline.

“We have significant work to do,” he said of Pac-12 football. “We had some disappointing non-conference losses, and in my opinion, not enough great high school players in the footprint are playing in the Pac-12.”

Kliavkoff addressed several other issues during his pre-game news conference:

— On the decision by the College Football Playoff to release the proposed expansion format before all the parties had agreed:

“I think one of the mistakes that was made in the expansion discussions was in June,” he said. “Before everybody needed to agree to something, we announced a proposal.”

— The Pac-12 supports expansion, and it supports early expansion (before the 2026 season). The sticking points for the 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are the number of teams (12 or eight) and the process for determining the automatic qualifiers.

“We are very supportive of multiple proposals,” Kliavkoff said.

— Kliavkoff added that the decision to keep or eliminate the Pac-12 divisions is related to CFP expansion — specifically the process for determining automatic bids.

The goal is to craft a football strategy that positions the conference for the maximum number of playoff bids.

He said the campuses are in “total alignment” with that goal.

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