Pac-12 breakup amid conference realignment ‘overstated’ at the moment
Nobody is denying that Arizona State and Arizona, among other teams, could be considering leaving the Pac-12 after USC and UCLA shook up their college athletics arrangement on the West Coast. But it’s a holding pattern for now.
Unpredictability is the expectation. In the week-plus since USC and UCLA announced a decision to join the Big Ten starting in 2024, it appears the potential for the death of the Pac-12 is premature.
How is the league under new commissioner George Kliavkoff moving forward?
“The quick answer to that is you first have to galvanize what’s left of this conference,” 750 The Game host and columnist John Canzano told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Friday. “The initial reports that Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado might be leaving for the Big 12, I think they were dramatically overstated.
“I talked to the athletic directors at those schools and they, to a person, said their first priority was to trust in George Kliavkoff, trust in the conference and see what was going to happen. Like, don’t be hasty and jump to the Big 12 just because USC and UCLA had left. Stick around and slow-play this a little bit.”
Update: Following up with ASU, the school said 98.7 FM guest and 750 The Game host and columnist John Canzano did not speak with Sun Devil Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson on the topic of Pac-12 Conference structure and alignment.
ESPN’s Pete Thamel also used that term: overstated. Thamel wrote that new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has expressed interest in the four Pac-12 South schools through back channels.
The Arizona and mountain schools, however, have been convinced to keep an eye on what Oregon and Washington do — those two schools have reported interest in following the L.A. schools to Big Ten country.
The Pac-12 acted quickly to open negotiations around its next media rights deal thanks to Kliavkoff calling an emergency meeting, according to Canzano.
That will allow the conference to pursue avenues to either expand or find partnerships with other smaller conferences to entice a big television deal.
A Pac-12/ACC agreement to feature football games and more is somewhere to start. Canzano said such an arrangement could include annual non-conference games between each conference’s No. 1 seeds and No. 2 seeds — so on and so forth — from the prior year.
The hope would be that Pac-12/ACC duo would be viewed as the No. 3 superconference behind the expanding SEC and Big Ten.
Negotiations with ESPN and FOX, Canzano adds, will center over the number of eyeballs in each market.
“You have to think of it through the eyes of television executives. They’re not going to care about brand … not as much as about market size and households,” Canzano said.
That’s why Canzano believes Oregon and Washington might not receive offers to join the Big Ten.
Expansion from that TV perspective could lead the Pac-12 to focus on poaching teams out of the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas. SMU, Houston and Baylor are such options.
Looking closer to the West Coast, Canzano adds that Fresno State and San Diego State would bring more eyeballs on TV screens than, say, more football-heavy brands like Boise State. There isn’t an obvious expansion option.
“None of ’em are no-brainers,” Canzano said. “I would expect they won’t take a flier here. They’ll stay at 10 unless something is a no-brainer: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah staying in the conference, and Oregon and Washington staying tight. I really feel like they’re pulling together right now.”