Sticking With the Pac-12: Colorado’s Commitment amidst Shifting Landscapes
Contrary to circulating speculations, Colorado University is not looking to abandon the Pac-12 conference anytime soon. Despite a not-yet-finalized media rights agreement, the university’s commitment to maintain its Pac-12 affiliation was emphasized recently by Chancellor Phil DiStefano during a conversation with Sean Keeler of the Denver Post.
No Change in Direction for the Buffaloes
This proclamation of allegiance coincides with a year marked by serious changes in the college football landscape, including announcements from USC and UCLA about their intentions to join the Big Ten in 2024, and the addition of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF to the Big 12 from July 1. In anticipation of shifts next year, the SEC is set to welcome Oklahoma and Texas. Yet despite these moves, the Pac-12, now a 10-team conference, remains without a secure long-term media rights deal.
Colorado’s Stance amid Uncertainty
Chancellor DiStefano, nonetheless, continues to demonstrate optimism about the Buffaloes’ standing within the Pac-12. He expressed his faith in a forthcoming media agreement and stressed the unity among Pac-12 presidents and chancellors in their quest to maintain their conference affiliation.
With the arrival of Deion Sanders in Boulder, Colorado has emerged as an intriguing prospect for conference expansion within leagues such as the Big 12. The Four Corner universities, namely Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah, are imagined to be excellent additions to an increasingly powerful Big 12. However, the future of Colorado’s membership is yet to be determined and requires careful consideration of their best strategic moves.
The Argument for Staying Put
In looking back at Colorado’s shift from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 over a decade ago, it could be argued that the switch was more of a lateral move than a beneficial upgrade—especially in comparison to Utah’s successful ascension from the Mountain West. Yet, given the current circumstances and the impending media rights deal, it may be more advantageous for the university to uphold their existing Pac-12 affiliation.
Departures from USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, the Big 12’s acquisition of four significant former Group of Five programs, and the Pac-12’s lack of new additions for replacing the Bruins and Trojans all suggest that maintaining the course could be the easiest and quickest path into the College Football Playoff for the Buffs.
Looking at the College Football Playoff Landscape
Beyond the departures, the Pac-12 is home to notable programs such as traditional powerhouses Oregon and Washington, a strong Utah team under the leadership of Kyle Whittingham, and an Oregon State side led by excellent head coach Jonathan Smith. Furthermore, Colorado is seeing a resurgence to national relevance under the direction of Coach Prime, suggesting the Buffs can still stand out within the league.
However, some skepticism surrounds the possibility of a 10-team Pac-12 gaining more than a single team entry into the expanded College Football Playoff. The competition for spots is fierce, especially with the inevitable high entries from the SEC, Big Ten, and Big 12, regular entries from the ACC, and the Group of Five champion getting a spot.
Nevertheless, with a possible new media rights deal and the commitment of remaining teams to perform at their best, the Pac-12 could become more enticing. Should teams like San Diego State and SMU join to bring the conference back up to 12, more spots in the 12-team playoff might become attainable. Overall, it seems more sensible for Colorado to remain in the Pac-12 rather than leaving.
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