Conference Realignment: USC & UCLA to Join Big Ten; What’s Next for the Big 12?

Things change a lot in a day.

Well that escalated incredibly quickly. I feel like it was around the lunch hour when word leaked that UCLA and USC would be moving to the Big Ten, meaning that the world of super-conferences wasn’t something that the SEC wanted to happen, but an actuality with the Big Ten stretching from New Jersey to Los Angeles.

Mercury News’ Jon Wilner is the go-to for Pac-12 news and he’s asking what the options are and it makes sense for the Big Ten to ask Washington and Oregon to join, that leaves Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah prime for picking as well as Stanford and California, so maybe a merger works best for everyone at this point:

One year ago, the Big 12 was in an equally dire situation, having lost its biggest football brands, Texas and Oklahoma, to the SEC.

It reached out to the Pac-12 and asked about a merger, only to have the offer rebuffed.

At that point, the Big 12 scanned the landscape and decided to expand, adding Cincinnati, Brigham Young, Houston and UCF to create stability for its post-Texas/Oklahoma existence.

Now, the Pac-12 is desperate.

On numerous levels, it makes sense to seek a merger with the Big 12 that would give rise to a conference with 22 teams and span three time zones.

But would anyone pay for it?

The prime driver of conference realignment is the revenue generated by media rights contracts, particularly with Fox and ESPN.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodds asks what’s next for Notre Dame, the ACC schools, and the Pac-12 as well:

Its centerpieces — the Los Angeles schools — has been ripped away. Its next-biggest market is Phoenix where Arizona State is under NCAA investigation for major violations. Arizona is one of the Pac-12’s worst college football programs at the moment with basketball digging out of its own NCAA issues.

For now, there is no interest from the Big 12 to take any Pac-12 schools. When a chance presented itself Thursday for the Big 12 board of directors to discuss these developments, one high-ranking Big 12 official said, “Why?”

That doesn’t mean the Arizona schools may not eventually migrate to the new Big 12. There may be some value with the Phoenix market and being able to expand the conference’s membership to 14. It does mean there is a reckoning coming for the Pac-12 where — for the most part — the appetite for football pales in comparison to the rest of the country.

“We’re not obsessed with that right now,” said Lawrence Schovanek, president of Texas Tech, when asked about realignment on Wednesday, “but nobody has said having 12 members in the Big 12 is the magic number.”

The Athletic has a detailed piece and yes, it seems as if the poaching of Pac-12 teams makes sense (this portion is from Max Olson):

Here it is. The Big 12 can capitalize on this situation by making a move for these Pac-12 schools. The timing works since the Pac-12 grant of rights expires before the Big 12’s does. Adding Power 5 schools would presumably help the Big 12 make more money on its next TV deal, which is absolutely critical. The geographical “fit” factor doesn’t matter, and the Big 12 already has BYU on the way.

Obviously, there are bylaws that must be obeyed and Pac-12 schools would have to initiate the contact with the Big 12. But now that their league has lost USC and UCLA, doesn’t this suddenly make more sense?

Earlier this year, The Athletic surveyed more than 1,500 Big 12 fans and asked which schools they’d prefer to add if the conference pursued additional expansion. Arizona State (62.5%) and Arizona (61.9%) were by far the most popular potential targets. That’s probably where the conversation should begin, even if it somewhat depends on the status of Oregon and Washington.

But it certainly seems logical to wonder whether the end game for the Big 12 should be expanding to 16 teams by inviting Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah. As Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff liked to say last summer when he publicly flirted with the idea of growing his league, all options should be on the table for the Big 12.

And this part is from Sam Kahn:

The Big 12 is in a position of strength relative to the Pac-12 and one source told The Athletic that the schools that would have jumped at the chance to join the Pac-12 last year probably won’t now if the league inquired.

“I think the Big 12 holds the cards,” the source said.

Said another source: “If you’re Arizona, Colorado and Utah, you’re looking toward (the Big 12) right now.”

BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are set to join the Big 12 in 2023. The latter three schools finalized their buyout with the American Athletic Conference on June 10 to officially join next July, timing that looks astute now that realignment is churning again.

The Big 12 won’t be in the same stratosphere financially as the Big Ten and SEC (no other conference will be). And though things can change quickly, current Big 12 members feel more comfortable about their future now than they did in the aftermath of Oklahoma and Texas’ departure.

Action Network’s Brett McMurphy reports that the Big 12 has never been aggressive, but it might be time to start.

With USC and UCLA giving the Big Ten 16 members and Oklahoma and Texas giving the SEC 16 schools, one possibility is the Big 12 to also get to 16 schools, a source said.

The Big 12 could add Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado, along with new members BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to get to 16 after OU and Texas leave for SEC.

“The Big 12 has never been aggressive (in conference realignment), but they should contact those four Pac-12 schools and tell them, ‘Come on board because there’s nothing left in the Pac-12,’” a source said.


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