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What are the next options for Cal if the ACC falls through?
The California Golden Bears have a host of options in realignment, none of them super desirable, ranging from Big 12 to Mountain West to American to Pac-4.
This is your weekend discussion hub for all things regarding existential destruction.
Say the ACC stays deadlocked. What are the next best options for Cal in realignment?
The Big Ten
Pros: We’ve recited them ad nauseum here. This is the preferred option for a litany of options.
Cons: The offer might never come. Cal and Stanford were scoped out already and denied when Oregon and Washington got invited. And if it does, Fox is clearly happy to let both programs bleed and beg for a spot at the table. So if both schools get in, it’ll be on the most financially disadvantageous terms possible.
The Big 12
Pros: Despite the rancorous back-and-forth, the Big 12 would still likely set aside a lot of this to capture the final major West Coast market. ESPN is salty at FOX swooping in on UCLA, USC, Washington and Oregon in the Pac-12, and would love to recapture this market. It’d be the next best revenue bet and Cal would retain at least a handful of their Pac-12 matchups, even if they’re the least interesting ones to fans.
Cons: Cal and Stanford do not want to be in the Big 12 for poor academic and cultural fits. We can elaborate the case in greater detail later if it comes to that, but it’s definitely a measure of last resort for both programs.
Pros: The American seems very excited to merge up with Cal and Stanford. They would likely be the best programs on the block. They’ll have a media contract, albeit not a great one, that will give them decent money to keep the program afloat. And there are some solid academic programs like Rice and Tulane that can fall into the same peer group as Cal and Stanford.
Cons: Money. The drop in revenue payouts could be as high as 50-75% unless ESPN is willing to renegotiate. And ticket sales will likely dip considerably—none of these programs will encourage any casual Cal fan to show up to the stadium.
Pros: The Mountain West provides more of a regional footprint than the AAC, so there will be likely more regional interest with overlap. And it reduces the travel output by quite a bit. Cal will also have the best chance of resetting their program and rebuilding it properly with competition that they should be able to outpace for awhile.
Cons: The MWC has an equally bad TV contract as the AAC. There are also some programs Cal and Stanford would rather not face regularly in this conference due to prior on-field/off-field results with their teams/fanbases.
Pros: Cal and Stanford take their positions as the kingpins of the conference. They call the shots on who gets invited, and can help make a conference that fits their own preferences. They will have a chance to perform much better against upgraded G5 competition and reinvent themselves on the fly.
Cons: There’s no guaranteed media deal and it’s likely to come in at a very low number if they don’t make good realignment moves, and when has the Pac-12 made any good realignment moves this past decade? The Mountain West schools are locked for a year due to exit fees. So it’s basically money again.
Not even worth discussing. Cal will not get a national media deal and would have to significantly drawback their athletic program.
Nearly every option above has its downsides, some of them extremely down. This is the place Cal has put itself in after decades of administrative negligence. They’ll just have to work with the hand they get dealt.