The college conference landscape is changing with USC and UCLA's departure from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten the latest dominoes to fall.
What could be next in college conference expansion and college conference realignment for the Pac-12?
Take a look at some updates, rumors, speculation and reports surrounding the future of the conference and its teams.
Matt Wadleigh of Trojans Wire wrote: If Arizona leaves, it will almost certainly be for the Big 12. Such a move would create an even better basketball conference for the Big 12, which already has national champion Kansas, 2021 champion Baylor and 2019 runner-up Texas Tech. 2021 Final Four team Houston joins the conference next year, and TCU is a preseason top-15 team. Adding Arizona makes the Big 12 better in hoops, which is a scary thought.
Matt Wadleigh of Trojans Wire wrote: "If the Sun Devils leave, it’s hard to see Arizona not joining ASU. Much as USC and UCLA were connected, so are the Arizona schools. If one leaves, we can safely predict the other one will."
Sports Illustrated recently ranked the Pac-12 as the fifth-best conference among the Power 5. It had the SEC first, Big Ten second, ACC third and Big 12 fourth.
It wrote of the Pac-12: "Early indications are the conference can keep its current 10 members from splintering, although that solidarity might be only as strong as the Big Ten’s appetite for further expansion. The Pac-12 still has several major media markets and the late-night programming niche, which are good. But it doesn’t have much in the way of attractive expansion targets, and any further raiding of its membership could prove fatal."
Utah would be a great addition to Big 12
Dick Harmon wrote of the Deseret News wrote: "Utah would make an immediate splash on the Big 12 landscape if things went that way at some future time. Under Kyle Whittingham, the Utes have built a strong brand with annual expectations to be in the Top 25 knocking on the door to a Top 10 ranking. The Big 12 is a flashy offensive league with Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and TCU generally putting up speed, big numbers and occasional defense. It’s on defense where Utah would reign in Big 12 territory because the Utes would make it a specialty, and it would surface to the top quickly. Utah’s physicality would be an area of demarcation in that league. It already is a huge separator in the Pac-12."
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News wrote: "By placing 400-something football games on the Pac-12 Networks over 12 years, instead of on ESPN and Fox, the conference has lost more than half a billion dollars over the contract cycle. In other words: As the Pac-12 negotiates its new media contracts, it will include a huge package of undervalued football inventory. The $250 million in average annual value from the ESPN and Fox contract isn’t an entirely accurate baseline from which to project the Pac-12’s next media rights contract because of all the games stashed on the Pac-12 Networks that generated very little in real dollars for the schools.
Ben Koo of Awful Announcing wrote: "Oh man. I hate opening up this can of worms. The Big Ten and the SEC can pretty much gobble up anyone they want whenever they want minus Notre Dame (for now?). This means if your name is Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Miami, Clemson, and Florida State, it’s very possible it might be more of a question of when than if. Other schools like North Carolina, Virginia, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Cal, Arizona State, and Colorado are also other possible dominoes that could fall should this SEC vs. Big Ten landgrab continue to snowball. So, has any of this changed with yesterday’s news? I’d say yes."
Bet Arizona released odds for where Arizona State and Arizona could end up in conference realignment and included the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West and going independent as options.
The San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner wrote: "The night games are perhaps the most valuable piece of the Pac-12’s media rights package. In theory, it could offer weekly kickoffs at 7:30 p.m. Pacific on Friday and Saturday night for 13 weeks. That’s 26 games, with little or no competition, in primetime windows for the West Coast and Mountain Time Zone audiences. We don’t know details, but it’s safe to assume the night broadcast slots are a central piece of the bidding process."
Arizona, Arizona State 'kingpins' for what happens with Pac-12, Big 12
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post said: "Will there be more teams and universities that change conferences? I look at Arizona and Arizona State. I think they are kind of the kingpins right now. Do they go to the Big 12 or do they stay in the Pac-12? I think that will shift things."
Arizona and Arizona St. may be kingpins in what happens with Pac 12 and Big 12. 👀👀 https://t.co/zjA5qyhU45
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) August 10, 2022
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) August 10, 2022
Awful Announcing's Ben Koo wrote: "Both conferences are pretty much stuck just hoping the poaching from the big two stops. At some point when the bleeding is actually over, they too will have to figure out their television futures. Most of the reporting and speculation has cooled, given the Big Ten’s expansion and now television rights extensions taking center stage. The Pac-12 just now emerged from their exclusive negotiating window with ESPN with no new deal. Both the Pac-12 and the Big 12 are for now mostly focused on trying from an optics standpoint to seem like the more stable conference capable of absorbing the remains of the other conference. I’d give a small advantage to the Pac-12 for now, given they have a conference-owned network that can be absorbed and also the ability to have late-night games. However, that advantage would crumble should they suffer any other defections (so really a very tenuous advantage given how precarious things are)."
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News wrote: "But the result falls short of an optimal situation for the Pac-12 for one reason: The remaining competition, or lack thereof. ... Ideally, the Big Ten negotiations would have left behind a second interested party. With Fox, CBS and NBC sharing inventory that includes the New York, Chicago and Los Angeles media markets, the networks will have little, if any motivation to bid against ESPN for the Pac-12 rights."
What the Pac-12 should do to maximize TV value
Matt Zemek of Trojans Wire wrote: "The Pac-12, Big 12, and ACC have to find ways of being relevant within that structure when it becomes a regular part of the college football media landscape. What should the Pac-12 offer? Untraditional time slots."
John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal wrote: "ESPN has pulled out of Big Ten media rights negotiations entirely, ending one of the longest sports media relationships in the business. That move clears the way for CBS and NBC to join Fox Sports as Big Ten broadcasters starting with the 2023-24 school year. A formal announcement could come as early as this week. It could push into next week."
ESPN faces 'strategic calculation' with Pac-12, Big 12
The San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner wrote: "The Big 12 is expected to begin media rights negotiations in the summer of 2024, for a contract cycle starting in the fall of 2025. We mention the Big 12 piece because of the strategic calculation facing ESPN. Even without serious competition from other linear networks, ESPN could be incentivized to offer a contract that helps keep the Pac-12 intact. If the network comes with a lowball offer and the conference fractures, the most valuable remaining football programs likely would jump to the Big 12. That leaves open the potential for Fox to go all-in with the Big 12 when negotiations begin in two years and effectively lock ESPN out of college football in the western half of the country."
The Associated Press and Salt Lake Tribune wrote: "The Big Ten’s next round of media rights contracts will not include a deal with ESPN. Two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Big Ten was looking for a seven-year deal worth $380 million per year from ESPN, and the network declined. The agreement would not have given ESPN the ability to have first choice of Big Ten games in a given week at any point. The fallout could be good news for the Pac-12, which remains in negotiations with the network giant, as well as its other media partners on new media rights agreements. Without the Big Ten contract, ESPN theoretically has money to spend elsewhere and programming slots to fill. For its part, the Pac-12 can provide evening kickoff slots, as late as 10:30 p.m. ET — inventory with little, if any competition at that hour."
Trojan Wire's Matt Zemek wrote: "San Diego State has become such a hot and central topic in the midst of the Pac-12-Big 12 firefight because it represents an available way for both the Pac-12 and Big 12 to plant a flag in Los Angeles with USC and UCLA heading to the Big Ten. San Diego State has become the hill a military unit must capture in order to gain higher ground and a more favorable battlefield position. This has been one of the more unexpected but genuine plot twists in the larger theater of college sports realignment. It invites the question: What are the hills other conferences need to take in other regions of the country to fortify themselves in a long-term context?"
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News wrote: "Were the calculation entirely about annual revenue, survival would be a substantial favorite. We believe Arizona, ASU, Colorado and Utah would prefer to remain in the Pac-12, and there’s no indication that either league has a significant advantage in future revenue. But the long-haul stability issue certainly must be considered. The Hotline does not believe the Big Ten will expand again this decade. In our estimation, Notre Dame will sign a new deal with NBC and remain Independent, limiting the Big Ten’s options. But admittedly, that’s a precarious assumption for the Four Corners schools. At this point, the challenge for commissioner George Kliavkoff is crafting a contract that provides flexibility for Washington, Oregon and Stanford and security for the others."
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News wrote: "Pretty good … perhaps better than 50/50. ESPN could create a media partnership based on each league’s Tier 3 infrastructure, combining the ACC Network with the Pac-12 Network to create more subscribers, and revenue. For all their problems with distribution, the Pac-12 Networks are on the cutting edge with their remote broadcast technology."
Pac-12 Insider John Canzano wrote: "ESPN reportedly balked at a deal with the Big Ten. If the Pac-12 could have performed a cartwheel, it would have. It’s been a gut-wrenching five weeks since USC and UCLA announced they were defecting to the Big Ten. One Pac-12 athletic director who has been part of the turmoil associated with several different conference expansions and realignments offered some context."
Matt Zemek of Trojans Wire wrote: "We have all wondered over the past six weeks if the Pac-12 Conference was going to survive the departures of USC and UCLA. Tuesday morning, it became clear that the league will indeed live on. There won’t be a death. There won’t be splintering into extinction. There won’t be a raid by the Big 12. The Pac will be back in some form or fashion. Yes, the Pac-12 won’t be as strong as it was with USC in the fold. The conference won’t make as many dollars or win as many Heisman Trophies with the Trojans in the Big Ten. We can all acknowledge that. However, the Pac-12 is going to survive. That’s something."
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Pac-12 Conference expansion, realignment live updates, rumors, reports