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Teresa Gould named Pac-12 commissioner: Deputy commish promoted as conference navigates uncertain future

The Pac-12 has appointed Teresa Gould as its new commissioner, the conference announced Monday. The appointment comes just three days after the league parted ways with former boss George Kliavkoff. Gould, who is set to become the first-ever female commissioner of an Autonomous Five conference when her tenure begins March 1, will travel with Kliavkoff to Wednesday’s College Football Playoff Management Committee meeting, according to Yahoo Sports

“I look forward to partnering with Oregon State and Washington State to secure a bright future for their student-athletes that allows them  to compete at the highest level of college athletics, while enjoying the benefits of a quality campus experience,” Gould said in a press release. “Working in collaboration with their leadership and our talented staff, I am excited to build a pathway for the future that allows their programs to thrive.”   

Gould is set to lead a conference that, as things stand, consists of just two schools. Oregon State and Washington State are the only holdovers from a wave of conference realignment that saw 10 of the league’s programs leave for the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC last summer.

Gould does have the benefit of familiarity with the conference. She joined the Pac-12 front office in August 2018 and has since served as deputy commissioner. Prior to that, she worked in the athletic departments at California and UC-Davis, with a stint as UC-Davis’ interim athletic director from 2015-16. 

“Teresa’s deep knowledge of collegiate athletics and unwavering commitment to student-athletes makes her uniquely qualified to help guide the Pac-12 Conference during this period of unprecedented change in college sports,” said Washington State University president Kirk Schulz said in a press release. “As the first female commissioner of an Autonomy Five conference, Teresa will be able to bring new perspectives and fresh ideas to the table as the industry works to find its way through this shifting landscape. We look forward to her leadership as we write the next chapter in the Pac-12’s storied history.”

The challenge ahead

Gould is stepping into the most challenging situation any major conference has ever faced. The Pac-12 was decimated by college football’s recent realignment arms race and faces a very bleak future as the remaining schools are fighting to keep their heads above water. 

To fill out their 2024 football schedules, Oregon State and Washington State agreed to a scheduling alliance with the Mountain West Conference in which each Mountain West program plays one game against either Oregon State or Washington State. The nominal “Pac-2” won’t be allowed to compete for the MWC title and will not be granted an automatic bid in the College Football Playoff, which expands to 12 teams next season. 

Speaking of the playoff, the Pac-12 — spearheaded by Washington State president Kirk Schulz — is looking to keep a seat at the table when it comes to CFP deliberations. Schulz serves as the Pac-12’s representative on the College Football Playoff Management Committee and has pushed for CFP leaders to maintain the Pac-12’s status as a power conference in regards to revenue rights and voting powers. 

“We’ve been an Autonomy Five school and have resourced ourselves at that level for 25-30 years,” Schulz told Yahoo Sports. “Just because we were left standing in musical chairs, we just don’t feel that we should be relegated by no fault of our own.”

Gould could take a few routes to secure the Pac-12’s future. Bolstered by the scheduling alliance, the Pac-12 and Mountain West have engaged in talks about a merger, though there’s nothing on the immediate horizon in that front. The Pac-12 could also try and recruit schools to bolster its ranks, though without a solid television contract in place — its current agreements with Fox and ESPN are both set to expire in July, without any new deals lined up — the league does not have much of a vision to sell to prospective additions. 

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