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Big Ten reportedly still wants Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Washington ... at the right price
The Big Ten has already taken UCLA and USC but wants more West Coast schools to strengthen their position
Although things look grim for the Pac-12 at the moment, there are still potential signs for optimism for many of its major members.
And yes, despite the doomsaying you hear throughout the Berkeleysphere, the California Golden Bears are still a major member of this conference.
UCLA and USC departing the Pac-12 for the Big Ten has left the conference in the weakest possible position. They no longer have a meaningful stake in the Los Angeles market. They’ve lost their longstanding college football and college basketball blueblood. USC’s value to the Pac-12 was estimated at 30% based on media value alone.
So the Pac-12 is struggling to cobble together a good TV deal.
The ACC is trapped in the ESPN family at the moment (although it sounds as if Florida State and Clemson are about to throw hands), but it stays in a good place.
So the options for the Pac-12 are limited, asides from a hail mary like an ACC partnership:
They can try streaming, as has been rumored with Amazon and Apple. But Amazon is playing hardball for limited inventory and Apple wants the whole package. Neither is what the Pac-12 probably wants, as it’ll lead to lower revenue.
All signs are that ESPN is lowballing the Pac-12 to the point that they’re openly reporting on the Pac-12 negotiations as they themselves are negotiating for the media rights.
No second TV bidder appears to be coming. Fox is tapped out, CBS is uninterested, NBC has their hands full with Notre Dame + B1G, etc. That means no one is around to bid the media price up in any meaningful fashion.
And there is one additional major factor: Oregon and Washington almost certainly have a wandering eye. Their brands are big enough to survive Pac-12 implosion. So why stick with a conference in a weak position when they can find one much stronger?
And if the Pac-12 is weak enough, the Big Ten can definitely come in and scoop them up at a reduced rate. Matt Hayes says the conference is not done.
Another industry source told Saturday Out West they still believe the 4 Pac-12 schools that last year told Kliavkoff they weren’t signing extended grant of media rights deals without an unfettered out to join the Big Ten — Washington, Oregon, Stanford and California — are the dream addition for the Big Ten if it can find the funding.
If it can only find funding for 2, Washington and Oregon are the preferred additions. The Action Network reported in November that Washington and Oregon held “preliminary discussions” about joining the Big Ten.
“I’m not sure it has to be an equal (Big Ten) share, either,” a second source said. “It just has to be more than what (the Pac-12) can provide. If you’re asked to accept less to survive, the choice is easy.”
The Big Ten was rumored to be interested in Oregon, Washington, Cal and Stanford last summer, but the numbers didn’t quite add up to get every Big Ten program the payout they desired. But even a partial payout (say 75%, or around $50-60 million a year) would dwarf whatever payout even the best possible Pac-12 deal could get them.
(The numbers on the left hold mostly true, the Pac-12 numbers are dated, prior to when USC and UCLA were still members.)
While it’d be a hard pill to swallow unequal revenue sharing, the inequities between the revenues each conference is getting dwarf even those considerations.
If invites were extended this spring by the Big Ten, it is quite possible Pac-12 schools (Oregon, Washington, Cal, Stanford the likeliest candidates) might be amenable to accepting a reduced number relative to their LA counterparts for the time being until the next round of negotiations.
It does seem the preference for Cal is to maintain where they are in the Pac-12 and keep themselves afloat. However, if the conference is unable to secure a meaningful TV rights deal that even gets them to that level, even a reduced Big Ten TV deal for Cal, Stanford, Oregon and Washington in at least the next decade seems infinitely preferable.
Given the financial situation of the athletic department, any sort of bailout would be preferred.
And good news for UCLA: The proposed annual $2 to $10 million payout to Cal would almost certainly be forgiven, as both programs achieved their end goal.