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The rollercoaster of the last two days of realignment, Pac-12 and ASU future news

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s only a matter of time before college sports as we know them change drastically with massive realignment news appearing to be just around the corner.

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Every day that goes by since Colorado left the Pac-12 last week gets more and more bleak for the future of the conference.

Today or the next coming days could likely mark the final pin dropped in the demise of the conference barring things don’t fall apart at the last minute.  

ASU, Arizona and Utah likely headed to Big 12

The Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) will be holding what appears to be a follow-up meeting tonight at 6:00 to likely move forward with realignment. This comes after an unplanned meeting that was held on Tuesday, which can be assumed was a preliminary meeting about moving conferences.

Now, the writing is on the wall for what will be discussed tonight.

In the executive session, the ABOR will be meeting “for a review of assignment for Arizona State University President Michael Crow and the University of Arizona President Robert Robbins.”

According to the agenda, they will be conjoining “for possible legal advice and discussion regarding university athletics,” which highly indicates the move is on the way and could be informally finalized in the meeting if all goes according to plan.

It has been reported that Utah will likely join ASU and Arizona in a move to the Big 12, which only makes sense given that it would bring the conference to an even 16 teams. If all three were to join, the Big 12 would have successfully gained all four of the “Four Corner Schools” (including Colorado) from the Pac-12 after months of rumors.

Utah has been publicly committed to the Pac-12 as recently as Pac-12 Football Media Day (July 21), but things have obviously changed since the departure of Colorado and when Tuesday’s TV deal was presented (read below).

Now, even though they have reportedly been the most stubborn team, as 247 Sports’ Jason Scheer reports, it would make no sense for Utah to stay in the conference if Arizona and ASU are leaving.

The Utes still have no board meeting scheduled, so they might be a little late to the part in joining the Big 12.

However, an announcement of all three joining could come at the same time, as it would be easiest for the Big 12 to vote for all three at once. If any school leaves the Pac, they won’t have to pay an exit fee because the media rights deal ends after this year.

If it is decided tonight that Arizona and ASU are joining the Big 12, a vote from the conference and the whole process of joining could come as early as tomorrow.

Everything that led up to the announcement of this meeting yesterday was set up by an extremely disappointing day by the conference on Tuesday.

How did the Pac-12 tarnish the value of the conference to its schools so much in just the past couple days?

What happened Tuesday, the appeal of the Big 12

On Tuesday, the nine remaining teams in the conference met and were finally presented a TV rights deal. To say the least, it was not what they wanted, as the best of the three packages presented was with Apple and around 80% streaming where teams would get paid around $24.5 million on the high end, according to Scheer.

New reports say that Apple’s offer, which is clearly not good, expires at the end of the week.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff’s comment at Pac-12 Football Media Day of “the longer we wait for a media deal, the better our options get” looked completely wrong after the meeting.

Teams quickly realized there was no point of staying for the presented TV rights deal. For schools like ASU, Arizona and Utah, the Big 12 can offer that the games would not be on a streaming service and more money. The streaming service seems to be a bigger problem than the money, as schools were largely against primary streaming deals.

In terms of money, however, the Big 12 could offer a full media rights share of $31.7 million to any team that joins starting in 2025, according to Action Networks’ Brett McMurphy. (See full details of the deal in the “What’s next” section)

With these facts hanging around in the last week, almost no fans of any of the Four Corner schools want to deal with the headache that the conference continues to cause anymore. Their school can move conferences to get the promise future stability and not be a member of a broken conference. 

After Colorado made the first move because of these reasons last week, the athletic departments of ASU and Utah seem to have come around to realizing this now too.

Arizona has been skeptical about the future of the Pac-12 for a while. Now with the school reportedly joining forces with ASU and Utah, their seemingly planned-out move to the Big 12 becomes that much more impactful.

Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 reportedly asked for a future meeting, but there doesn’t seem to be a point of sticking around anymore with what is happening. Schools have quickly jumped ship to talking about realignment with other conferences.

In addition to this Pac-12 meeting on Tuesday, the ABOR also met that night and set up the big meeting tonight, as previously mentioned.

Big Ten exploring Pac-12 teams

Yesterday, the first big news of realignment came out of the Big Ten. It was reported by Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel that the Big Ten has had preliminary talks of adding Oregon and Washington and possibly Cal and Stanford.

According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, the Big Ten held an expansion meeting last night and are not only considering the four Pac-12 schools, but also Notre Dame, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida State.

They also met this morning, and commissioner Tony Petitti was given the green light for expansion talks, per Thamel.

Reports by Wetzel this morning say that the conference is keying on only Washington and Oregon for now. 

It was previously reported that the Big Ten did not want to make the first move of poaching more Pac-12 schools. But, it appears the uncertainty of the future of the Pac-12 has reached a breaking point, and the Big Ten can see that the Pac-12 has pretty much already combusted.

Washington and Oregon have already been vetted and approved for joining the conference, as have other teams, so it will be an easier process for them to move. The Huskies and Ducks joining the conference seems inevitable at this point. It’s just a matter of how many teams the Big Ten wants to expand to, whether that be 18 (with UW and UO) or 20 (with potentially Stanford and Cal or other schools).

Washington’s Board of regents have a “special meeting” tonight at 9:00 p.m., so we will see what comes from it. It sounds like it will be similar to Tuesday’s ABOR meeting where no action was taken, talks were just advanced.

With a total of $8 billion+ in streaming deals locked up with CBS, Fox and NBC through the 2029-30, the Big Ten is netting $1.1 billion per year (increase from  $440 million/year in deals with Fox and ESPN) starting this season. This means teams are making around $60 million every year in the conference, significantly higher than both the Pac-12’s presented number and even the Big 12’s numbers.

According to 247 Sports’ Brandon Marcello, the $60 million per year could grow to $100 million by the end of the decade. USC and UCLA were promised this full amount, but it is unexpected that Oregon, Washington or other teams would be offered full revenue shares, says Marcello. Still, they would bring in a significant amount of money with very little streaming in place.

After the Big Ten preliminary talks’ report came out, several outlets reported that it could be only a matter of time before the Big 12 adds at least Arizona State, Arizona and Utah as well. This could be because the Big Ten also probably recognized this, which is why they started to get more active in wanting to add teams. 

Then, these rumors came to fruition officially rather quickly with the announcement of the ABOR meeting.

Ray Anderson comments

We heard from Arizona State Vice President of University Athletics/ Athletics Director Ray Anderson yesterday morning. His comments did not seem promising at all for ASU staying in the Pac-12.

Anderson and ASU President Michael Crow had previously been staunch supporters and were committed to the Pac-12, but that was not the vibe when Anderson spoke yesterday. He sounded very uncertain about what the future holds for the Pac-12.

From my article yesterday:

Anderson said he couldn’t say much on the recent situations, but said that “we (ASU) are in a pretty good spot.”

He added: “We are a very respected and coveted institution and program and property as far as media folks and conferences determine and think about us.”

According to Anderson, the reason he can’t comment much on the recent news is because “it’s in a state where credibility is dependent on confidentiality.”

Anderson did not explicitly say that he was still committed at all and was really blunt with what he could address.

With that being said, Anderson did not have much to discuss about the deal that was presented.

But, he did say: “We’re hoping (the deal is) going to be very positive and the outcome will be beneficial to us, certainly for the long term.”

This left some question of how he truly feels.

As far as the future of when a deal will get done, Anderson said: “I’ve been saying in another two weeks for about a year, so I don’t have anymore prognostications or projections. I’ll just be patient and let the process run its course.”

That course might run out tonight.

ASU finally willing to leave

What was once thought of as something that would never happen is now a reality. Anderson and Crow have seemingly finally caved to how uncertain the future of the Pac-12 is.

According to Scheer, Robbins (the Arizona President) has been active in getting Crow and the Sun Devil athletic department on board with the changes.

According to 247 Sports’ Brandon Marcello, Crow was reportedly content with the deal the Pac-12 was presented even yesterday, but people around him eventually convinced him to further talks into having a board meeting.

This should not come as a surprise to ASU fans. In terms of Arizona State’s athletics, Crow has infuriated a lot of people with how little he seems to know about them, yet how controlling and committed he is to the Pac-12.

Fans have been displeased with Crow since he was one of former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s biggest supporters. Scott spearheaded the start of the fall of the Pac-12 by launching the independent Pac-12 Network, failing to add interested big-name schools to the conference and raking in a lot of money for himself among a variety of other things.

Crow was a part of the original group that hired Scott in 2009 and stuck by his side until the end of his tenure in 2021.

A quote from Crow from 2019 has resurfaced in the past year with everything the conference has gone through: “What somebody will be writing about three years from now or four years will be, ‘How did the Pac-12 get ahead of us.’”

This could not be further from the truth of what has actually transpired. Crow’s view on athletics has made ASU a very reactionary school when it comes to big decisions and slow to make any forward-moving progress, unlike academics where Crow tries to always be a step ahead.

Now, it seems that Robbins has convinced Anderson that moving to the Big 12 is the right move, and the two have been able to pull Crow’s hand to get on board with the decision.

Arizona and Robbins’ role in changing Crow’s mind to be willing to make the move to the Big 12 can’t be overstated. Sun Devil fans should be grateful they were willing to include them in their plans and not just go solo, which they could have made work.

If this switch of conferences to the Big 12 does hold in tonight’s meeting, it will be a remarkable feat for Arizona State athletics considering how much their loyalty to the Pac-12 has backfired on them over the years.

The Sun Devils and Wildcats have been part of the Pac-12 since 1978 back when it was the Pac-10 after they joined the conference together from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Now, the two rivals could leave the conference that built up their individual brands together after everything that has occurred.

Could anything stop the Big 12 realignment moves from happening?

It is highly unlikely that these realignment moves come to a screeching halt, but here are some things that could happen to disrupt at least Arizona and ASU’s move to the Big 12.

If for some reason the Big 12 all of a sudden becomes unwilling to take on these schools, then the whole process of finding a new conference or reaffirming allegiance to the Pac would begin all over again.

The biggest question mark that remains is Utah, but it appears they are willing to move now as well. They could stop everything if they pull back, however, as it could be tough for the Big 12 to be willing to take in two schools, as they would have an odd number of schools (15) with ASU and Arizona. The conference could, however, find a backup option for Utah if completely necessary.

The ABOR will not stop the process of the move with ASU and Arizona banded together. It would have to be one of the schools or an external factor that ruins the action. There seems to be a small chance ASU could all of a sudden back out as well based on the report that Crow initially was content with the deal.

In terms of what the Pac-12 could do, there is almost no way Kliavkoff, who has not proven capable of big change, could pull something off at the last minute. The only thing he might be able to do is convince one of the schools’ leaders (ASU or Utah) to hold on just for a little bit longer, which could disrupt the whole realignment process.

Seemingly the only path to the schools going back to the Pac would be if a major network all of a sudden decided to give the conference the money it wants with as little streaming options as possible, which is very unlikely to happen.

What’s likely next

Everything points for a move to the Big 12 for ASU, Arizona and Utah unofficially as soon as tonight and perhaps officially tomorrow. A move to the Big Ten for Washington and Oregon seems to be either on course or right behind the Four Corner schools’ transition with Cal and Stanford hanging in the mix. The drawn-out talks of Pac-12 rumors could finally be over.

USC and UCLA announced they were leaving the Pac-12 all the way back on June 30 of last year. The conference announced just a week later, on July 5, that they were opening negotiations for a new TV rights deal, as their current one ends on June 30, 2024. 

Even though the Big 12’s current TV contract ended a year after the Pac-12, the conference announced it was starting negotiations after the Pac-12 and got a massive $2.2 billion deal with Fox and ESPN through 2031 agreed upon quickly.

This was perhaps the biggest blow to the Pac-12 getting numbers, as the Big 12 jumped ahead of them to get this deal done. The Pac-12 likely had a similar deal on the table before, but Kliavkoff and leadership wanted more money, which never came.

No hard numbers from the Pac-12’s “negotiations” were ever presented until Tuesday, despite numerous reports of when they would be announced. The major reports dated all the way back to the beginning of this year with some minor reports last year.

The history of regional conferences in college sports has gone out the window because of how the Pac-12 has handled this situation. Yes, USC and UCLA leaving was a catalyst and took them out of the LA market, but they had over a year to make something right with schools constantly reaffirming their commitment to the conference and recruiting other schools to move in, but nothing good ever came out of it.

No matter what, the 2023 season will all still be played with the original 12 teams. However, in 2024, that will likely all change with USC and UCLA for sure going to the Big Ten and being potentially joined by Oregon, Washington, Stanford and Cal. Colorado is for sure going to the Big 12 in 2024 and is likely to be joined by ASU, Arizona and Utah.

As for Oregon State and Washington State and potentially Cal and Stanford (if they can’t get into the Big Ten), maybe they could join the Mountain West or another non-Power Five Conference. There have not been much rumors surrounding the OSU and WSU joining a major conference, but we’ll see if that changes. They could also stay with the Pac for a little bit and see what happens.

The route that Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 could take that seems most doable is to merge whatever teams are remaining with the Mountain West. If Arizona and ASU are gone tonight, Kliavkoff could seriously shift his focus to this to save the conference by doing this, if he hasn’t already.

In terms of geography, this merger makes the most sense, but it will be tough to see if anyone wants to merge with the Pac with all of the schools leaving. They would likely no longer be a Power Five conference and have shown no stability from leadership for what seems like over a decade.

It appears to be a very sad ending for the conference as everyone knows it.

Pac-12’s history

The Pac-12 has lasted for 108 years and been a historic conference in the shaping of collegiate athletics. The conference was originally known as the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) when it started on Dec. 2, 1915, but it dissolved in 1959 and reformed into the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU). Since it has been named the Big Five (1960), Big Six (1962), Pacific-8 (1964) and Pacific-10 (1978).

It has been known as the Pac-12 since June 2010 when Utah (who was previously in the Mountain West) and Colorado (Big Ten) were brought in.

The only two previous schools to leave the conference were the University of Idaho (1922-1959, when they changed from PCC to AAWU) and the University of Montana (1924-1950).

The Pac-12, “the Conference of Champions,” is the only conference to win 500 team national championships. (Makes you wonder what Bill Walton is thinking right now)

The first commissioner of the Pac-10 was Thomas C. Hansen, who held the title from 1983-2009. Then, Scott succeeded him from 2009-2021 and had the infamous independent Pac-12 Network up and running by 2012, as he tried to be one step ahead of the competition. He remained committed to the independence of the network, despite a Tier 1 offer presented by ESPN to takeover distribution in 2019. He pocketed a lot of money from the deal even after failing on negotiations with DirecTV from the onset, which ruined viewership numbers significantly.

Back in 2019, Scott had an interesting quote to Mercury News’ Jon Wilner:

”The Big 12 is doing something interesting with ESPN+,” Scott said. “Well, ESPN+ didn’t exist two years ago. DAZN didn’t exist two years ago. By the time our rights come up, we are predicting that not only will streaming services be important bidders for our rights, but there (are) going to be other players — some of the technology companies, and others that we can’t even name today, are going to be bidding for our rights. So we’re always trying to figure out what more we can do now to get more revenue for our schools, more exposure. But we very much have our eye on the best position for us longer term.”

This sounds very similar to what Crow said, but both of their statements have turned out to be flat-out wrong.

Since the end of Scott’s time, Kliavkoff has held the title and has not been able to do almost anything positive with the mess Scott left him. This came to the forefront with the departure of Colorado, as they left almost solely because of questions of the future stability of the conference.

Now, all the remaining Pac-12 schools will make one of their biggest decisions in each of their histories. Being in a storied conference that was quickly ruined by leadership now likely transitions to hoping for a brighter future in a new conference.

BREAKING: Arizona Board of Regents holding a meeting tomorrow for what appears to be a switch of conferences

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Brendan Mau is a college sports insider and general assignment reporter for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on Twitter via @Brendan_Mau

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