Pendulum swings back toward Big 12 in the race to an uncertain future with the Pac-12


Incoming Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark walks after speaking at the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, July 13, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Incoming Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark walks after speaking at the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, July 13, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

After a relatively quiet couple of weeks on the conference realignment stage, things could again be heating up in a significant way.

According to reports from’s Pete Thamel and CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, among others, the Big 12 Conference has officially informed the Pac-12 that it is not interested in a complete merger.

That news, provided it’s true, swings the control back to the Big 12 and puts the Pac-12 in perhaps its most vulnerable position yet.

The reason? Just because Big 12 officials communicated that they were not interested in a full merger does not mean that the Big 12 is not interested in expanding by raiding the Pac-12.

Given the fact that it is known that the Pac-12 has been negotiating its next media rights deal this month, this latest stance seems to suggest that the Big 12 has enough intel to assume that the Pac-12, as a whole, does not add enough value to the negotiating table and, therefore, that some Pac-12 schools need the Big 12. Reports from out west certainly indicate that, as well.

Jason Scheer, who covers Arizona for the 247 Sports network, tweeted on Monday night that there is “a major fracture” in the Pac-12, adding “it’s ugly” to the tweet.

There’s no doubt that the remaining Pac-12 schools who were left high and dry by USC and UCLA bolting to the Big Ten made the right move by trying to stick together and exploring whether the conference could survive. If any other schools leave now, though, it’s hard to see that happening, at least not in the form some of the remaining Pac-12 schools would like to see.

Reports have suggested that the number of Pac-12 schools that are holding out hope that the league survives as a Power 5 entity may be smaller than once believed and could be diminishing by the day.

Others have indicated that Colorado — as it was when it became the first to leave the Big 12 a decade ago — actually could be the first current Pac-12 school to jump, this time rejoining the Big 12 should a formal invitation be extended.

For weeks, it was believed that the so-called “four corners schools” — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — could be at the top of the Big 12’s wish list if it were to target the Pac-12 for expansion candidates.

While much of that time was spent believing that group was a packaged deal, the idea that Colorado could jump first, with or without the other three, is not crazy. Just as was the case in the first round or realignment, when CU jumped to the Pac-10 in an effort to survive, the opposite move could be made this time around, with survival again the goal.

Utah makes sense for the Big 12 because of its strong football brand, its mountain time zone home base (as opposed to the more difficult west coast time) and its proximity to those other three Pac-12 schools, along with incoming Big 12 program BYU.

If the Pac-12 finds itself on the type of unstable ground that it appears it might, Utah’s interest in joining the Big 12 sooner rather than later certainly could increase.

It’s looking more and more like the Big 12 might the best landing spot for Arizona State, whether that's today or in the near future. And Arizona and Arizona State sticking together during whatever moves are made only makes sense.

As for how any of this could impact Kansas, nothing has really changed there. The Jayhawks would benefit from a strong and revamped Big 12 Conference no matter how it is formed. If the Big 12 were to snatch the four-corners schools, Kansas and the rest of the existing Big 12 would certainly be headed toward much more restful nights in the near future.

While it remains to be seen just exactly how large the Big 12 pie could grow during its next media rights negotiations in 2024, there is reason to believe the number could be significant enough to support a 16-team conference while still paying out upwards of $60-$70 million to each member on an annual basis.

While that would still trail the mega-millions dished out by the Big Ten and SEC, it would be far greater than what any Big 12 school is bringing in today — the most recent payout for 2021 was a Big 12 record $42.6 million per member — and it also would firmly position the Big 12 as either the bronze medalist in the realignment race or at the top of the second tier of conferences.

How you view that is a matter of perspective, but both realities paint a very promising picture for the future of the Big 12 and the schools in it.

Remember, when new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark noted that the conference was “open for business” last week during his official introduction at Big 12 media days, he vowed to get creative in making the conference younger, hipper, cooler, and also noted that any moves the conference would make would be additive and not dilutive.

Simply put, if the Big 12 moves forward by adding schools from the Pac-12 — regardless of which ones they are — you can bet it will be doing so with the understanding that those schools, be it one, two, four, six or more, bring added value to the Big 12’s brand and business and create a stronger bargaining position for the conference heading into its next media rights negotiation in the not-too-distant future.

Some people who have been following the realignment race with a special eye toward the Big 12’s next media rights deal believe that Big 12 football could soon be on as many as four networks and three streaming services.

Younger, hipper, cooler. And better.


Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

sounds good to me. I still don't like the thought of KU going to the Big 10 or any other league. Despite the obvious financial incentive to being in the Big 10 or the SEC, it just doesn't feel right. And somehow it still feels considerably better to be a part of a vastly different Big 8/12/16... even without Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and some schools from Texas (after all we've still got the wildkitties, as well as ISU, and OSU... and now the odds are not bad for Colorado coming "home", that would make for a majority of the old Big 8).

Maybe I'm irrational. Maybe I'm too nostalgic, but if the "four corners" schools can save the conference then I'm in. After all I prefer the travel destinations of Arizona, Utah, and Colorado much better than Lincoln, Columbia, and Norman (or even Tuscaloosa, Gainesville, Columbus OH, or Ann Arbor.

Jeff Coffman 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I've always said that you want big schools and you don't need two schools from the same state. OU and OSU will be more valuable in different states. The three states that you can handle more than 1 are Florida, Texas, and California, because of size and amount of people living in those states. BYU and Utah overlap, they differ, so I could see the addition, but I'm not a fan. Colorado sold out, I'd take them, but not sure we should. I l still like Oregon, Cal, Stanford, Arizona.

Oregon with Nike U is a good addition, Cal is a name brand in California and would be solid. Stanford has the academics and name. Arizona brings in a good state. I would avoid Washington State and Oregon State.

If we could kick out KState and or one of the Texas Schools for Washington, I would.

However, until the SEC and Big10 start kicking out schools this isn't truly over. The key has always been to get the conferences down to 4 Power (5) schools (I feel like I'm typing conference numbers).

Right now SEC and Big Ten are solid and with the ACC being locked up to 2036, the two for the fighting are B12 and PAC. Only one survives.

The latest in the discussion is whether or not Notre Dame will stay independent or not. If they do, it sounds like they need the Big 12 for some partnership, which could keep B12 in the P4, which is the key.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I understand your argument for trying to maximize TV sets by not selecting multiple schools from individual states/TV market areas. However, I hate separating historic and natural rivalries. I assume that from a purely advertising/TV money perspective it would make more sense to build the conference the way that you propose. Oklahoma leaving for the SEC and replaced by Cincinnati may actually end up being a slight net+ from that perspective since OSU keeps those TV viewers from the OKC and Tulsa TV markets, but losing Bedlam just feels wrong. Just like it felt wrong for Mizzou to leave. And it would also feel wrong to separate KU and KSU. Sure, eventually it may end up being financially better, but from my perspective the weakening of the in-state rivalries by separating schools is overall a loss for the larger community, because those rivalries are healthy for communities and for society and the stronger the rivalry the more, in my opinion, they bring people together for common interest.

my hypotheses may all be wrong, but I have been able to develop connections with people from KSU and from Mizzou that I otherwise wouldn't be able to make except for the common experience of the rivalry. I can't form that same kind of connection with less natural rivalries such as Kentucky or West Virginia or even ISU.

Robert Brock 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The Big 12 already has BYU. Why add the U of Utah? Same market. Same TV sets. Same magic underwear.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It's like K-State, KU, Wichita State are in Kansas. People follow schools first, than the sport.

Utah, Utah State and BYU have fan bases locally. Utah would make sense to add, if that is on the table.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Cal has way too many State imposed hang ups - unless the Governor finds it personally beneficial. Stir clear.

Traitors should be relegated to their preferred culture.

BYU and Utah though same state are different viewers. BYU is also more national; sorta ND-lite.

I don’t see AZ schools as value added. Understandable that they would be interested and come calling.

Oregon and Washington could additive but they apparently think more highly of themselves. Is it worth an extra time zone?

Rodney Crain 2 months, 2 weeks ago

After reading the latest ESPN article on how the rights agreements that conferences put in place the last time we played merry go round on realignment are the linchpin for a school to move. The ACC is the only one not tied to when the media deals expire. The ACC rights deal lasts till 2036. Since schools that are looking for the best deal to move have to measure it against when their current rights deal expires before deciding on leaving. This makes it very hard for an ACC school to move.

Notre Dame is also not likely to move either They seem happy with a possible deal that would allow them to remain an independent while still being competitive in their possible payout with the other top conferences.

Since the SEC and B10 appear to be set with 14 schools, for now, that leaves the B12 and the P12 with new deals on the table and rights agreements expiring when the new contracts kicks in. You would think they would be talking about possible ways to connect or merge. But yesterday it appears the B12 has pushed away from that discussion with the P12. If true, one would think that the new shiny inexperienced B12 commish would have used his getting up to speed period better than to just walk away from the only table left to sit at. Unless he is nothing more than just a yes man mouthpiece.

If Mega conferences become the next evolution of college sports, I do not like our chances with Missing the Mark leading the way. I guess everything is not on the table while we just opened for business last week.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm assuming that the only reason the Big12 doesn't want to merge with the Pac10 is because we don't want Oregon State and Washington State. Those to school would probably be dilutive instead of additive.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

hard to imagine that the two schools would tip the scales from favorable to unfavorable, but with the Big 12 allegedly interested in Arizona, ASU, and Utah, and with the LA schools already off the board, maybe the full slate of PAC leftovers just contains too much fat?... I wouldn't be surprised if regents, presidents, and chancellors are muddying the waters with the social ideological issues. There's a huge gap societally between California, Oregon, Washington, and Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia.

Not that it matters, anymore with the LA - B1G merger, but the Big 12 already reaches into the ET time zone and soon into the Mountain time zone as well. I find it hard to watch the west coast late night games.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Dang; can't edit anymore. Those two schools would probably be dilutive instead of additive.

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