ASU, Arizona presidents: Not preparing to leave for Big 12

Mar 15, 2023, 11:27 AM | Updated: 2:45 pm

Michael Crow, Arizona State University president...

Arizona State University president Michael Crow in the Arizona Sports studio on Feb. 13, 2020. (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

The presidents of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona went on the record Tuesday reaffirming their current commitment to the Pac-12 amid the conference’s unfinished media rights negotiations.

The comments present confidence between the two largest state universities that a new TV and media deal will be accepted by the 10 remaining schools, with UCLA and USC leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten after this next sports season.

Both ASU president Michael Crow and Arizona president Dr. Robert Robbins, in different ways, also pushed back on the idea their respective schools have held discussions about leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12. Reports of conversations between the sides have surfaced over the past two weeks.

“There have been no discussions with the Big 12 conference on moving,” Crow told The State Press. “I mean, there’s been discussions between everyone everywhere on all things related to where our conference is going and where stuff’s going to end up and what’s happening. We are committed to the Pac-12.”

Crow added that he believes the Pac-12 is in the “final stages” of securing a new media rights deal beyond the current contract expiring in the summer of 2024.

Robbins told The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner that he expected a deal “soon.” The Wildcats’ president, however, was not as firm in committing to the Pac-12, saying his school certainly wouldn’t bolt for another conference before being presented with a media rights deal.

“It’s heavily dependent on (commissioner George Kliavkoff) and his team negotiating a good media deal for us to stay competitive,” Robbins told Wilner.

“I don’t think anybody wants to leave. Why would you move for a couple million dollars a year more?”

Clearly, however, Robbins gave a realistic assessment of the situation, telling Wilner the Pac-12 is competing for a “bronze medal” with the SEC and Big Ten media rights deals leading the way.

The Arizona leader said there were “affinities” and reasons the Pac-12 and Big 12 could be discussing interest in each other’s schools.

“We’re all committed,” he said, “and I’m pretty confident George will bring us a deal that we’re happy with and that preserves the Pac-12 to make the next step together — or with 12 (schools) if we add anybody.”

Crow downplays state of Desert Financial Arena

Crow pushed back against vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson’s comment in February 2022 that the school’s Desert Financial Arena was in “dire” need of upgrades.

“I don’t know what he meant by ‘dire,'” Crow told The State Press. “You’ve been there. It’s completely functional. It’s actually a fine facility and just needs some updates.

“…That facility is completely functional. It does not determine if we win basketball games at all.”

Anderson told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta last year that the facility, which is primarily used for the Sun Devils’ basketball, wrestling and gymastics teams, needed to be prioritized.

“We know we have got to address that,” Anderson said. “We said that several years ago. You may remember the original plan was to try to do hockey and basketball together. It became very clear to us that trying to do that combined project in the location was not going to work. We pivoted to focus first on the multi-purpose arena …

“We never lost sight, yes, that Desert Financial … is in dire need, very frankly, of improvements. That is clearly on our radar. I anticipate we will be pivoting to that very quickly, because we need to.”

Arizona State in 2018 planned for a joint project to renovate what was then called Wells Fargo Arena. A hockey venue was to be added to it.

In 2020, ASU opted to create a separate arena for the hockey team, Mullett Arena, which was completed this year and is also the interim home to the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

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