The realignment floodgates have burst open after USC and UCLA announced their move to the Big Ten in 2024. A stunned Pac-12 is searching for ways to fill the gaps of USC and UCLA to entice media deals but now with the loss of their Los Angeles market, that could be a difficult task.
At the same time, they are trying to jockey with the Big 12 and ACC to come in third to the Power 2. Can the Pac-12 contend? Will they merge? What about everyone else?
Big 12 in talks with six Pac 12 teams
Per CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, the Big 12 is apparently in “deep discussions” with multiple Pac-12 schools. Currently, at least four schools are being considered by the Big 12, with the potential to include more after seeing how realignment further pans out.
Dodd reported Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah were “mentioned specifically as the teams being targeted by the Big 12,” with Oregon and Washington also being considered.
The Pac-12 made moves of their own, announcing in a statement yesterday that, “The Pac-12 Board of Directors met this morning and authorized the Conference to immediately begin negotiations for its next media rights agreements.”
The current contract expires in 2024, hence why UCLA and USC could leave without repercussions. The conference intends to move forward with their 10 remaining members and hope to add more. They are also in a 30-day negotiating window with current TV rights holders Fox and ESPN before looking at offers from other bidders.
It would appear to be now or never for the Big 12 expanding with Pac-12 teams, as their own contact sets to expire in 2025.
Adding Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah would allow for the Big 12 to maintain its current annual average income (AAV) for each of its schools in 2025, the year Oklahoma and Texas will officially be in the SEC. This plan of expansion will work in favor of the Big 12 since they have no intention of making conference representatives’ slice of the media rights pie any smaller.
With the sway power they do have, the Big 12 has the ability to snatch up other teams from the Pac-12. They would be able to expand their market and branding while also increasing their earning power, which are good enough reasons to consider expansion through adding members of the Pac-12.
USC and UCLA are gone. What about everyone else?
With the Big 12 and the remaining 10 members of the Pac-12 navigating realignment and media contracts, the ACC seemingly appears to be locked up in their own deals and grants until 2036 after searching for conference stability in their contracts after the exit of Maryland in 2014. It would be difficult to navigate the legal landscape and the buyouts, which leaves the jump to the others in the Power 5 more manageable.
Who is the one most are eager to see take action? According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Notre Dame is the ultimate domino left waiting to fall.
The Fighting Irish have their own deal with NBC that has kept their independence going, but that deal runs through 2025. NBC has the exclusive rights to Notre Dame home games and the Irish don’t have to share their revenue with anyone. They also have their payout from the ACC, to which all of their other sports are a member of. Money has been left on the table before for Notre Dame but the rates at which the Big Ten and the SEC have money flowing in, it could be too good of a deal to pass up. Could Notre Dame be swayed?
Notre Dame is the most alluring school left on the board for the likes of the SEC and Big Ten, so talks have to be happening like always. However, that doesn’t mean that with college football heading towards realignment they will give up their independence. They have their brand recognition, which has kept them afloat in the TV era and also gives them full control on how they move forward.
Could they risk being left behind? Possibly, but conferences will wait for Notre Dame. One commissioner said it best, “The Big Ten would take them today, tomorrow, five years from now, 10 years from now. You would go to numbers that just stink for building schedules to add Notre Dame.”