Discover more from Write For California
The Pac-12 doomsday clock ticks as Colorado departure puts the conference on life support
Now I have become death, destroyer of the Conference of Champions.
Cal fans, I don’t want to alarm you, but we’re in trouble.
Colorado’s surprise return to the Big 12 casts a pall on any potential Pac-12 media rights deal at the worst possible time. If Colorado returned to the Big 12 on a modest $31.7 million a year deal, it has to indicate that the Pac-12 TV deals being entertained aren’t coming close to matching that number. (Rumors indicate the diminished conference was asking for $50 million a year in negotiations, comparable to the super Big Ten TV contract. It’s an insane number.)
In short, the conference’s foundation looks very unstable. If downtrodden Colorado isn’t happy with that figure, you have to imagine Oregon and Washington are apoplectic and are searching for whatever exit they can find. Arizona has put Big 12 on their close friends phone list. The proud facade the conference put up after USC and UCLA firebombed the Pac-12 with
Point your fingers whereever you want, from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott locking the conference into a doomed TV network; to the bumbling year-long PR spin thrown out by George Kliavkoff; to the clueless university presidents who assented to these and prior commissioners; to USC and UCLA who recognized a rotten conference and sabotaged their way out. All of whom spun this historic conference off the cliff.
But this conference, barring the miracle of all miracles, is at death’s door. Another defection only confirms the inevitable.
What comes next is anyone’s guess. We'll know soon if the Pac-12 is dead. August 1 is the deadline for the Big 12 to add schools, and the Big 12 has a pro-rata clause to add on P5 schools at the $31.5 mil number.
It is incredible the amount of things the Pac-12 had to do wrong to get to the point of where they are now. Extinction.
As for Cal, things are very grim. The Pac-12 TV deal will likely fall well short of what the university needs. San Diego State probably feels burned by the Pac-12, who did not extend an invite in time and forced a rather embarrassing return after a threat of a significant exit fee. The Big Ten (the preferred landing spot for Cal) won't expand until they assess how USC & UCLA inclusion impact the bottom line. And we have a lame duck chancellor and an AD under investigation.
So I hate to report that "How confident should you feel about Cal navigating the waters of realignment successfully at this moment?" likely would have the same answer as "How much confidence do you currently have in the leadership of James Arthur Knowlton?".
We’ll have more words to spill on this, but as this is a Friday, it’s best to news dump right now. Here are the latest news and rumors.
Think about just how many things the Pac-12 had to get wrong over those 13 years to arrive at this precarious moment where it may soon be down to just nine members. Think about the fact that just two summers ago, after powers Oklahoma and Texas bolted the Big 12, new commissioner George Kliavkoff and his league presidents felt no need to grab a TCU or Houston when either would have come crawling in a nanosecond.
Former commissioner Larry Scott may have set the Pac-12’s tumble in motion with his combo of arrogance and aloofness, but Kliavkoff, his successor, has now rolled the boulder right up to the edge of the cliff with a unique cocktail of naivete and negligence.
SDSU may have some complications leaving the Mountain West, however. It sent a letter to the conference on June 13 announcing its intentions to do so, but withdrew those intentions on June 30. Earlier this month, after clearing some financial hurdles, the Mountain West announced San Diego State would remain a member of the conference for the 2023-24 athletic season.
SMU would have to pay a substantial exit fee if it wants to leave the AAC in time for the 2024 season, but the university would likely have donor support to do so if it meant joining a Power Five conference
The Big 12 will add between one and three schools to join Colorado in 2024, sources told Action Network.
The league will first seek other Pac-12 members to join, and if none do so, the Big 12 would add a Group of Five school to reach an even number of members in 2024, sources said.
Arizona is the most likely Pac-12 candidate to join Colorado in the Big 12, sources said. Arizona State, Utah, Oregon and Washington also are possibilities from the Pac-12.
The Pac-12's proximity to -- and academic engagement with -- Silicon Valley has always been an advantage. However, in a strange twist, the streaming giants that made the region famous have become a contentious discussion point. Since streaming hasn't "hit" quite yet as a major carrier of sports, the Pac-12 seemingly has to land a media rights deal that relies on less than 50% of its dollars coming from that platform.
The lack of visibility on linear TV could rankle Pac-12 athletic directors and coaches. It certainly mattered to Colorado, which will instead earn an equal $31.7 million annual share from Fox and ESPN as a new Big 12 member.
Since the first major realignment dominoes fell with Texas and Oklahoma's decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC happened in summer 2021, the ACC has explored possible expansion options, according to multiple league administrators, running models on adding a number of potential targets, including West Virginia, SMU, Oregon and Washington. However, league officials haven't determined if any additional schools would help bridge the ACC's financial gap with the SEC and Big Ten.