By 750 THE GAME STAFF
The Pac-12 faces an uncertain future, and the Big Ten Conference is positioning itself to try and take advantage if the Pac-12 dissolves.
Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel reported Wednesday that a group of four university presidents in the Big Ten have begun preliminary discussions on expanding from its current sixteen teams and invite schools currently in the Pac-12.
Oregon and Washington would be invited if the Big Ten wants to go to an 18-team conference.
Cal and Stanford would also be invited should the Big Ten opt for a 20-team conference.
Wetzel stresses discussions are in the “very early stages” and that no decision on expansion is imminent.
The news comes a day after Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff presented figures to the Pac-12 CEO group for the conference’s next media deal, featuring Apple as a main partner that would stream the majority of the conference’s games. Reports indicate the per school distribution from such a deal could be as low as $20 Million while the Big 12 will be distributing $32 Million to its members under its new media deal with FOX and ESPN that begins in July 2025. The Big Ten will dish out a minimum of $50 Million a year per school (in its current 16-team format) under its new media rights deal with linear television partners NBC, CBS and FOX.
With the Pac-12 at risk of splintering, Oregon, Washington, Cal and Stanford renewed their push to the Big Ten, seeking a safe, and far richer harbor, for their athletic programs starting in 2024.
Wetzel also said that the Big Ten does not want to deal the death blow to the Pac-12, but wants to wait and see if other schools like Utah, Arizona and Arizona State choose to leave the conference first and join the Big 12.
The Big Ten’s thinking is that if the Pac-12 is going to be decimated anyway with the departure of Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, and 20-team national conferences are the future, then why not act now when the conference is already in transition? It could just add Oregon and Washington, but at that point, why not bring along Cal and Stanford?
What does that mean for other Pac-12 schools: Oregon State and Washington State?
That would be a bitter development for the current Pac-12 members left behind — Oregon State and Washington State. They would likely join the Mountain West Conference or to maintain the Pac-12 brand and merge with any number of MWC schools.
Both schools have proud fan bases, but limited market share due to geography and other factors.
The future of the Pac-12 is as uncertain as it’s ever been, but final resolution could be reached at any moment.
Read Wetzel’s full piece, here.