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Before Colorado and Utah joined the Pac-10 to form the Pac-12, there was talk of the Pac-12 poaching Oklahoma, Texas and some other Big 12 schools to form a super-conference in what could have been known as the Pac-16.
Well, what if the Big 12 returned the favor and poached some teams from the Pac-12?
The Athletic’s Andy Staples discussed the topic on his latest podcast.
He brought up the idea of USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington joining the Big 12 (which actually only has 10 teams).
“The Big 12 is not as poorly run as people outside of Big 12 country think,” Staples said on the Andy Staples Show podcast. “The Big 12 is actually pretty well run and it has a pretty good set of TV deals, not as good as the SEC and the Big Ten, but pretty good and then the bigger you are the more you make off those third-tier rights. Texas has the Longhorn Network, Oklahoma has its deal with Fox. Even Kansas and Iowa State have pretty good deals, so, the Big 12 is just sitting there with 10 schools and a really good TV deal and they have a TV deal coming up. The year before the Big 12’s TV deal expires, the Pac-12’s TV deal expires.
Staples said what the Big 12 needs to do is raid the Pac-12.
“The Big 12 needs to go to USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington and say, ‘are you tired of not getting any money from your league? Are you tired of not getting any money out of your third-tier rights? Well, come join us because all together as 16-team league we would command a huge primary television package, we would command a huge secondary television package, you then would then be able to sell your third-tier for whatever you want,” Staples said.
The Big 12 would be able to add the media markets of Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle.
“It would be doable, that’s the thing. The Pac-12 is in such a weakened state right now,” Staples said. “This is something the Big 12 could pull off.”
College football realignment talk has cooled off in recent years. The Big 12 has been linked to programs like BYU and Boise State as possible future members, but that talk quieted. The last major conference realignment for Power 5 conferences happened when Rutgers and Maryland moved to the Big Ten in 2014.
The Pac-12’s last move came when Colorado and Utah joined the conference in 2012.
Staples wondered if the Big 12 could possibly shake up the college athletics landscape with a big move like adding those Pac-12 schools when the conference’s TV deal expires in 2024.
“Think about that league: Texas, Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State, Baylor, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, the Arizona schools, that’s a pretty fun league,” Staples said. “You could divide it a couple of different ways … but from a television standpoint it would be great.”
Could major change be coming to the Pac-12? (Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
It wouldn’t be good for the Pac-12 schools that weren’t included, Staples said, but the move for the other Pac-12 schools would be a good one.
“They are the only safe harbor at this point, there’s nowhere else to go,” Staples said. “So, I am very curious to see how aggressive the Big 12 would be in something like this because they really could gut the Pac-12 if they wanted to, and create a very strong league that would be, I don’t know if it is the financial rival of the Big Ten or the SEC, but it would command a pretty good TV deal.”
Staples said that schools such as Oregon and USC could be attracted to the Big 12 by the possibility of having their own network, like Texas with the Longhorn Network.
Crossroads for the Pac-12
Staples’ comments come at a time when the Pac-12 could be reaching a crossroads.
There appears to be some growing discord in commissioner Larry Scott and the lack of TV revenue for the conference compared to other conferences.
CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd wrote that the latest estimates for Pac-12 Networks “have the league at least $17 million per school annually behind the Big Ten, the revenue leader among conferences. At $33 million per school, the Pac-12 is fifth in the Power Five.”
The Pac-12’s TV agreement with ESPN and Fox expires in 2024.
USC athletic director Mike Bohn recently said that “everything is on the table” in terms of the Trojans’ future conference affiliation.
Bohn later clarified his stance on the future of the Trojans to Dodd.
“It was not malicious,” Bohn told CBS Sports referring to his comments.
“There’s no talk of (leaving), but guess what? If it was on the table, we would certainly explore that,” Bohn said. “But I’ve got to be careful. The league is really tender. The context that I was talking about was whether it was league TV stuff, creative pieces with any other type of deliverable, it has to be on the table. Guess what? If that helps [the league] understand the importance of what our campuses are going through, so be it.
“I don’t want to walk it back, but hopefully that gives it a little more context.”
Speculation surrounding Pac-12’s future
Speculation continues to surround the future of the conference.
Oregon Live’s John Canzano recently wrote that Oregon should follow USC’s example and put the Pac-12 conference on notice about its future.
“The Ducks have a wonderful and valuable brand,” Canzano wrote. “They’ve got a rabid fan base that connects nationally. Athletic director Rob Mullens is coming off being the chair of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Mario Cristobal’s football program is viewed as a contender. Kelly Graves’ women’s basketball program looks like a strong bet to reach the Final Four and is a huge national television draw. If he hasn’t already, University of Oregon President Michael Schill may look around and wonder why the Ducks are stuck in a sad-sack conference led by a commissioner who operates with his own self interests. Schill is an interesting part of the equation. He has a seat on the Pac-12 CEO Group, which means he’s one of Scott’s bosses. Also, he’s tuned into the issues. … This isn’t about UO leaving the Pac-12. It’s about Oregon being eyes-wide-open and increasing its leverage within the conference. Because if the financials don’t improve in the next cycle, something drastic may have to be done.”
247 Sports had a podcast wondering about whether Oregon should consider leaving the Pac-12.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Gordon Monson was critical of the state of the Pac-12 in a recent column.
“The Pac-12 is becoming a laughingstock among its so-called peers, a kind of Hot Dog On a Stick mid-major conference dressed out in a goofy hat and a striped uniform, masquerading as a P5, attempting to compete against fine dining,” he wrote. “It is a McDonalds to the SEC’s and the Big Ten’s Ruth’s Chris, the ACC’s and the Big 12’s Fleming’s. It is busy flipping and grilling cheeseburgers while the others are searing prime cuts of ribeye and filet mignon. … Bad decisions made by poor leadership in the Pac-12 have led to a decline in both revenue streams from and competitive success in the biggest sports. That’s why the best football coaches in the league — David Shaw at Stanford and Kyle Whittingham at Utah — gain only a fraction of the winning and the remuneration as the best coaches in the SEC — Nick Saban — and the ACC — Dabo Swinney.”
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