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BREAKING: ASU, Arizona officially join the Big 12

© Megan Mendoza/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Arizona and Arizona State will officially leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12 beginning in 2024 after a statement from the conference. Utah will also join them in the move.

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The Big 12 voted unanimously tonight to admit Arizona State and Utah into the conference beginning in 2024. The conference voted to admit Arizona yesterday. The schools will be full members of the Big 12 starting Aug. 2, 2024.

The final straw for Utah and Arizona State came after a failed Pac-12 meeting this morning where the schools could not sign a Grant of Rights for a TV deal with Apple.

A short time after, Washington and Oregon unofficially jumped to the Big Ten (now official). Then a few hours later, ASU and Utah applied for membership.

Arizona State University President Michael Crow was the biggest factor is what drew out this decision so long. Arizona and its President Bobby Robbins were all set to move to the Big 12 after yesterday’s Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) meeting, where both schools got the board’s blessing to move.

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 leave the conference that built up their individual brands together after everything that has occurred.

Quotes from Crow and Vice President of University Athletics/Athletics Director Ray Anderson here: 

Quotes from press release on ASU’s move to the Big 12

In 2024, when the three schools join the Big 12, they will be in the conference these 13 other schools: the Baylor Bears, BYU Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats, Colorado Buffaloes, Houston Cougars, Iowa State Cyclones, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats. TCU Horned Frogs, Texas Tech Red Raiders, UCF Knights and West Virginia Mountaineers.

A whole new wave of schools will change the Big 12 with the “Four Corner” schools (UA, ASU, Utah and Colorado) joining next year and BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston starting play in the conference this season. Texas and Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 in 2024 for the SEC.

So, in 2024, the Big 12 will be half-and-half of schools that are joining this year and next, and schools that have remained in the conference.

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has been wanting his conference to expand West to provide more value for the league and add a fourth “time zone,” he said last summer. Now, they have that.

Yormark singlehandedly proved to be more innovative to the Pac-12 schools by offering them a better future and more stability in the Big 12. It all started when he jumped the Pac-12 in getting a media rights deal done in October of last year, even though his conference’s current media deal doesn’t end until 2025 (See numbers and much more in “The better deal” section). Then, he was able to convince Colorado to make the jump last week.

Yormark reportedly met with Arizona and Arizona State earlier this week to further the talks. Arizona has been willing to move for a while, but it didn’t seem ASU was totally bought in until this morning when Oregon and Washington made the move.

The Big 12 and Yormark apparently aren’t all the way done either, as 247 Sports’ Jason Scheer reports there’s “a very real chance” the Big 12 could vote to expand to 18 teams. The process could be slow, but Yormark will have the green light.

Scheer also reports that the two additions could be basketball only, likely Gonzaga and UConn.

So how do some numbers (not $-related) stack up for ASU with the move to the conference? Here are two good tweets that show some:

In terms of regional divisions within the conference, here’s how they could look (for football for example, teams would play seven schools from their region and two from the other):

I wrote everything and more that needs to be known about this move earlier this week:

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

And here for all of today’s news:

Tracker of Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten realignment news (August 4)

Here are some of the highlights and new developments:

The better deal

USC and UCLA announced they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten 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 on Oct. 30, 2022.

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 commissioner George 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.

On Tuesday, the nine remaining teams in the conference met and were finally presented the 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.

The deal actually ended up expiring at today, so the nine teams met with one last chance to sign the Grant of Rights this morning. That did not end up happening and now here we are.

In terms of money, the Big 12 will likely give a full media rights share of $31.7 million to any Power Five team that joins starting in 2025, according to Action Networks’ Brett McMurphy. It is definitive that the ESPN part of the deal carries over to new schools. It’s just a matter of if the Fox wants their part to carry over also, but it is reportedly likely that they will allow it. 

So, ASU, Arizona and Utah will be getting more money and less streaming, which is exactly what Arizona has been vouching for and finally convinced ASU as well.

Arizona pulling ASU across the finish line

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.

Robbins has pretty much been dragging Crow through this whole process. Despite ASU previously not making any steps towards moving besides the ABOR meeting yesterday, Robbins and Arizona were willing to go right away with the approval from the ABOR.

Crow’s stubbornness was magnified by the fact that he was jealous of how much praise Robbins was getting for this decision. At this end, he appeared to be the only factor holding ASU from jumping. Anderson and other key figures seemed to be on board with a move by ASU, but Crow, who holds the final say, made it extremely difficult.

According to 247 Sports’ Brandon Marcello, Crow was reportedly content with the deal the Pac-12 was presented even as late as Wednesday (still probably was this morning), but people around him eventually convinced him to discuss talks of the board meeting that happened last night.

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.

Robbins and Anderson were eventually 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.

This switch of conferences is a remarkable feat for Arizona State athletics considering how much their loyalty to the Pac-12 has backfired on them over the years.

What’s next for the remaining Pac schools

No matter what, the 2023 season will all still be played with the original 12 teams. However, in 2024, that will all change with the “Four Corner” schools now going to the Big 12 in 2024. USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington are heading to the Big Ten.

As for Oregon State and Washington State and potentially Cal and Stanford, they could join the Mountain West (MWC) or another non-Power Five Conference. Stanford could also go independent, while Cal’s future looks very bleak.

There are small rumblings that ESPN wants to keep a West Coast presence, so they could push for the Big 12 to add Oregon State and Washington State. There is still a minuscule chance for Cal and Stanford to join the Big Ten.

There is no more hope for a Pac-12 media rights deal with four schools left.

The route that Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 could take that seems most doable is to merge whatever teams are remaining with the MWC. Some other options are merging or bringing schools from the West Coast Conference (WCC) or the American Athletic Conference (AAC). It would be tough for the Mountain West schools to join the Pac-12 because of the large exit fee they would have to pay.

At this point, merging with the MWC is primarily what has been reported.

If the two conferences merge, they could rebrand under a new name, maybe the Pacific Coast Conference as ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura alludes to.

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

That being put, who knows if Kliavkoff or the Mountain West commissioner Gloria Nevarez (who just started at the helm on Jan. 1, 2023) would be the leader of the conference.

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 before this whole fiasco 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 attempted 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 eerily 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, it all has crashed and burned with eight schools leaving the conference next year.

A brighter future ahead for Arizona and ASU?

Regional collegiate sports conferences as we know them appear to be totally gone. This shift of teams to other conferences that are further away takes out some of the specific individual and unique aspects that different conferences bring to the table.

However, the competition in the Big 12, especially for the biggest sports in basketball and football, will be stiff and will create a new dynamic for ASU and Arizona. All of the schools have their own unique histories that, for most of them, have been shaped in the Big 12.

Now, these historic Big 12 schools plus a new wave of schools joining the conference will further this competition and create a whole new Big 12.

Furthermore, it should boost recruiting for schools like ASU even more.

ASU has attacked Texas recruiting hard in football and that will only magnify, as the Big 12 is home to four Texas schools and the neighboring states. The Sun Devils have six verbal commitments (out of 17 total) from Texas in their 2024 class, which is more than they have from any other state.

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham has already alluded to this.

Speaking of football, both Arizona and Arizona State’s offensive-minded head coaches will fit in perfectly with the league. The Big 12 is known for its high-powered offenses, not so much its defenses.

The implications the disbanding of the Pac-12 will have on bowl games in college football, as well as the new 12-team College Football Playoff, which starts in 2024, will be massive. It would be too hard for most bowls, like the historic Rose Bowl, to make a decision right away, but there will definitely be some coming.

As for basketball, the league has two of the last three basketball national championships (Baylor in 2021, Kansas in 2022). This sets up best for basketball-powerhouse Arizona.

However, a key player on that national championship Jayhawk team was former ASU star point guard Remy Martin. ASU also beat Kansas two years in a row in 2017 and 2018, once in Lawrence and once in Tempe. Being in the Big 12 could improve recruiting for Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils and allow them to build up their brand.

But, college sports as we know them are now changed forever, especially since there will be no major conferences on the West Coast.

The move to the Big 12 will go down as one of the biggest moves in school history for both Arizona and Arizona State, and we will see how it plays out over the next few years.

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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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