clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What former Utah athletic director Chris Hill thinks the Pac-12 needs in its new commissioner

Dr. Chris Hill talks about his tenure at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Hill will retire as athletic director.
Dr. Chris Hill talks about his tenure at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Hill, who retired as the school’s athletic director in 2018, outlined to The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner what the Pac-12 should look for in its next commissioner.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

For more than three decades, Chris Hill led the University of Utah athletic department.

During that stretch, he hired program-changing coaches like Kyle Whittingham and Urban Meyer in football and Rick Majerus in basketball, and helped negotiate the Utes joining the Pac-12 Conference.

Those years of experience make Hill qualified to weigh in on what the Pac-12 should look for in its new commissioner; current league commissioner Larry Scott is stepping down from the position this summer.

Hill told The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner the conference needs to look for someone familiar with college athletics. He added, “It doesn’t have to be an AD, but that’s what I’m describing.”

Hill served as Utah’s athletic director from 1987 until his retirement in 2018, when Mark Harlan took over the position at the U.

“On the big line,” Hill said, “you need somebody who has experience in college athletics or somebody who has been on a campus in another position and understands the role the conference should play.”

Scott became the Pac-12’s commissioner in 2009 after serving as chairman and CEO of Women’s Tennis Association. Part of the timing for Scott and the Pac-12 mutually deciding to part ways was the league’s desire to have a new commissioner in place to negotiate the conference’s next long-term media rights agreement.

Hill warned, though, that the league shouldn’t sacrifice finding someone with an intimate knowledge of the campus experience in lieu of going for more of a sports media expert.

“You don’t want the TV piece to be so overwhelming that they don’t do the first one,’’ Hill told Wilner, referring to the campus experience. “You have to understand it, but you don’t want to get carried away because there’s that whole other thing you have to do. And that’s help the campuses, because the league is better if everybody wins.”

NBC Sports laid out several potential candidates the Pac-12 could pursue to replace Scott. They include:

  • Gene Smith, Ohio State senior VP and athletic director.
  • Oliver Luck, former CEO of the XFL and West Virginia athletic director.
  • Bernard Muir, Stanford athletic director.
  • Gloria Nevarez, West Coast Conference commissioner.
  • Burke Magnus, executive vice president of ESPN.
  • Dan Radakovich, Clemson athletic director.
  • Greg Byrne, Alabama athletic director.
  • Ray Anderson, Arizona State athletic director.
  • Rob Mullens, Oregon athletic director.
  • Bill Moos, Nebraska athletic director.

Scott’s tenure as Pac-12 commissioner has been filled both with success — adding two programs in Utah and Colorado, securing a $3 billion media rights deal in 2011 and creating a league-only TV network among them — and controversy — like the league’s inability to get the Pac-12 Networks widely distributed and the Pac-12 also falling behind in revenue distribution when compared to other Power Five conferences.

There’s also been plenty of scrutiny surrounding the league’s performance in football over the past several years. Last fall, the Pac-12 was the last Power Five conference to start up its football season amid the pandemic, after initially canceling the season. A Pac-12 program has made the College Football Playoff only twice in its seven-year existence as well.

“The Pac-12 has a brand,’’ Hill told Wilner said. “It has great schools. It has great places to live. It has broad-based programs. It’s seen as a conference with good athletics. But you’ve got to win.”