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Rick George: Pac-12 Commissioner? A look at his resume (and potential successor at CU)

For almost as long as there has been speculation that Larry Scott should be removed as the Commissioner for the Pac-12 (which is to say, years) there has been speculation that Colorado’s Athletic Director, Rick George, would be a candidate to replace Scott.

And it’s not just the whimsy of the Buff Nation. In several national publications, George’s name has surfaced.

ESPN listed a number of candidates, with Rick George making the cut:

Potential candidates include Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who served as Arizona State’s athletic director from 2000 to 2005 and has a home in the Phoenix area; Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne, who led Arizona’s athletic department from 2010 to 2017; former West Virginia athletic director and NCAA vice president Oliver Luck, whose son Andrew starred at quarterback for Stanford; current Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir; American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, a former programming executive for both CBS and ESPN; Colorado athletic director Rick George, a former Texas Rangers executive; Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson, who has worked closely with Scott and league presidents during the coronavirus pandemic; and West Coast Conference commissioner Gloria Nevarez, a former senior associate commissioner at the Pac-12, who oversaw compliance at Cal and also received her law degree there, and served as a senior associate athletic director at Oklahoma.

John Canzano, the outspoken critic of Larry Scott who writes for the Oregonian, had Rick George atop his list of potential candidates:

“I’m looking at a guy like Rick George at Colorado, who has been the president of a Major League Baseball team (the Texas Rangers). He has run a golf tour (PGA Tour and Champions Tour). He has also been an athletic director and very well respected inside the Pac-12. Rick George is a loud voice in those AD meetings.”

So, what does Rick George bring to the table? 

A vast and comprehensive resume.

From his CUBuffs.com bio … George came to CU in 2013 from the Texas Rangers, where he was named chief operating officer on October 5, 2010 with a promotion to president of business operations in February 2013.

George was with the Rangers for less than three years, but saw the team win two American League championships and compile a 243-176 record (.580 winning percentage) during his time there, second-best in the major leagues during that time frame.  As the COO, he worked closely with team president and CEO, baseball Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan, and was responsible for all facets of the Rangers’ business operations, including oversight of all sales and marketing efforts, broadcast and communications, ticket and suite sales, naming rights, etc., in addition to overseeing the finance, human resource and operations departments.

Among his many accomplishments with the Rangers was a comprehensive branding study that successfully rebranded the ball club, and an implementation of a new ticketing strategy that over the course of three seasons increased ticket revenues by over $30 million.  The club’s attendance saw an increase of 40 percent from the 2010 season to nearly 3.5 million in 2012, second in the American League (behind the New York Yankees) and third in the majors.

Prior to joining the Rangers, George served as executive vice president and chief of operations for the PGA TOUR for two-and-a-half years (beginning in June 2008).  While with the TOUR, he worked with the corporate marketing department in renewing sponsorships and creating new events.  He also oversaw the Tournament Business Affairs division that worked with Tournaments to increase tournament revenue.

He also worked for the PGA TOUR as president of the Champions Tour from 2003-08, and as the executive vice president for championship management his last three years there.

At the collegiate level, George worked in three major conferences (Big Ten, Big 8, Southeastern) in football operations, beginning with his alma mater, the University of Illinois, as football recruiting coordinator (1983-87).

At Colorado … 

— Remember the “Drive for $105”? Or, better put, do you remember CU’s fund-raising before Rick George came along? You know, the school which hadn’t been able to raise over $15 million in a year … ever? Then Rick George came to Boulder … and raised over $100 million to fund the Champions Center. Bringing CU’s athletic facilities on par with the rest of the Big 12/Pac-12 had been discussed for decades … but it took Rick George to make it a reality;

—  George has overseen the first-ever comprehensive strategic plan at CU, which mapped CU’s immediate and long range purpose and goals.  He also redesigned the management teams, and reduced deficits he inherited. The past few years, Colorado – unlike many of its Pac-12 brethren (see the financial messes at Cal, Washington State, for example) has maintained a balanced budget. Now its true that Colorado will face a shortfall for the 2020-21 pandemic year, but that is a universal issue in collegiate athletics this year;

— In 2019, George was one of 30 named to the prestigious National Football Foundation’s “Team of Excellence,” highlighting those NFF board members who played football and have gone on to success in life.

And his national profile has been raised considerably of late … 

George recently completed his first year of a three-year term as a member of the selection committee for the College Football Playoffs;

George also serves on the Division I Council of the NCAA, is part of the NCAA’s D1 Council Transfer Working Group, and is serving on an 18-member committee – the NCAA Working Group on State and Federal Legislation – which is exploring the ability of student-athletes to profit on his or her name, image and likeness (or NIL). Had it not been for the sharp turn the world of collegiate athletics took last March, the work of this committee would have been the topic of discussion in collegiate athletics this past year;

Previously, George served two years (Sept. 2017-Sept. 2019) as the chair of the LEAD1 Association, which represents the athletic directors, programs and student-athletes of the 130 member schools of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

All of the above certainly is enough to make Rick George an attractive candidate for the job.

The Pac-12 Presidents will make the selection, but they will be guided by an executive committee made up of Oregon president Michael Schill, Washington president Ana Mari Cauce and Washington State president Kirk Schulz.

When asked about the criteria they were looking for, Rick George checked all the boxes:

Kirk Schulz: “My personal viewpoint is that we need somebody that understands the athletics world, understands how to work with a campus, how to work with presidents and chancellors … What I want is someone who brings creative ideas but also understands the culture of the West Coast, which is different. I tend to think it’s a great culture, but we have to have somebody who understands that.

“If I look at football and men’s basketball competitiveness and our footprint and those type of things, I’m going to look for somebody that doesn’t just have great ideas but has a little bit of a Rolodex and the ability to make some things happen for us.”

And, if CU loses Rick George to the Pac-12? 

There would have to be, of course, a nation-wide search for a successor.

But, for many in the Buff Nation, the logical choice for CU’s next Athletic Director already has an office on the fifth floor of the Champions Center, a few doors down from George’s office.

CU Associate Athletic Director Lance Carl.

Now, I will admit to a serious personal bias here. I have known Lance for years, and he has been kind enough to do an interview for CU at the Game each spring for the past five years (we didn’t do one this past spring. We were scheduled to meet on February 7th – the same day the Detroit Free Press posted the story that Mel Tucker was leaving CU for Michigan State … bad timing. We were then going to get together again the week before spring practices started … oops).

Carl came back to CU when Rick George was hired in 2013, being named to the newly created position, associate athletic director for business development. He was also simultaneously the sports supervisor for the football program, which eventually grew into a more streamlined role in the department that he transitioned into ahead of the 2019 season.

Now the associate athletic director for football, he has daily interactions with head coach Karl Dorrell, the assistant coaches, support personnel and the student-athletes.  He is also CU’s liaison to the National Football League and its member teams with scouts and personnel staff, having worked as a scout in the late 1990s himself.  In addition, he has long been active and on the board of directors with Buffs4Life, an organization of former CU athletes that help former Buffs in need.

And, of course, he was the second half of the “committee of two” who hired Mel Tucker two years ago, and Karl Dorrell this past spring.

No need to take a blood sample here … Lance Carl bleeds black-and-gold.

And, perhaps not as a coincidence, he has done more interviews this past year. Carl did a four-part series with BuffStampede.com this past spring, together with a podcast interview with Brian Howell from the Boulder Daily Camera.

Were the interviews done with an eye on raising Carl’s public profile? Perhaps.

If it came to pass that Rick George was to be named the new Pac-12 commissioner, it would be a good day for the conference … a conference which hasn’t had that many good days in the past decade.

It would also be a significant loss for the University of Colorado, one which could perhaps be mitigated by the elevation of Lance Carl to the position of athletic director.

It’s going to take months for the Pac-12 Presidents and Chancellors to name Scott’s successor (Scott will remain on the job until June 30th), so nothing is going to happen immediately.

But until a list of candidates is released by the Pac-12 – and Rick George’s name is not on it – George’s name will continue to be associated with the search.

And Buff fans will be watching …

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One Reply to “Rick George: Pac-12 Commissioner?”

  1. Please say it ain’t so RG.

    This is purely selfish. however, CU has elevated its programs and image immensely under George. I would hate to see him go, but ‘ya know I never passed up a chance to improve my income or prestige when I worked.

    Why not root for the guy ? Naw ! ………On second thought, I’m selfish.

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