Pac-12 Shakeup: Could Arizona & Colorado Make the Big Move?

The president of Arizona, Robert Robbins, has expressed confidence that a new TV rights deal acceptable to everyone in the Pac-12 will be completed within a couple of weeks. However, he acknowledges that it remains a “soft circle,” and no deal will be in place until it’s in writing. Robbins has discussed the matter with Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark and other Four Corners schools, emphasizing that the Pac-12 has options.

A recent meeting between Pac-12 presidents focused on TV rights figures and how they will determine the league’s future. There is some interest in joining the Big 12, but the specifics of a Pac-12 deal have yet to materialize. Robbins also highlighted the potential attractiveness of a package deal involving Arizona and Arizona State.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff faces a soft deadline to secure a TV deal. The number to beat is $31.6 million—the average annual revenue each Big 12 team will receive when its new media rights deal begins in 2025. Robbins suggests that the Pac-12’s total will likely be higher than the Big 12’s, but the final figure will determine the decision.

A deadline of April 15 has been proposed, though some feel it should have been earlier. Robbins also hinted that the Big 12 might be attempting to create a domino effect, destabilizing the Pac-12 by convincing just one school to leave. He believes that if Colorado and Arizona were to leave together, the league would face significant challenges.

The Big 12’s media consultant, Endeavor, and its president, Mark Shapiro, have orchestrated what Robbins calls a “great PR campaign” alongside Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark. Pac-12 expansion could be on the horizon, with San Diego State and SMU being reported as potential candidates. However, a deal must be in place before any expansion can be considered.

In discussing the interests of Oregon and Washington, Robbins explained that USC’s move to the Big Ten prompted UCLA to follow, and both schools needed travel partners. If Oregon and Washington were to leave for the Big Ten, it remains unclear if the Pac-12 would survive with fewer than 10 teams.

The delay in finalizing a deal could be due to the struggling economy and the fact that the Pac-12 is the only conference currently in negotiations. Robbins believes that the best deal possible should be secured within the next couple of weeks, given the current economic climate. The Big 12’s $100 million from the Texas-Oklahoma buyout could potentially be used as leverage.

The Pac-12’s elite academic reputation is an important factor in Arizona’s decision, with nine of the 12 current Pac-12 schools being members of the American Association of Universities. However, the focus remains on TV markets and the value media companies place on the conference’s brand.

Concerns about the visibility and recruiting implications of streaming Pac-12 games have been raised, with CBS Sports reporting that over 50% of Pac-12 football games could be exclusive to streaming platforms. Robbins has not heard such discussions within the conference and believes that a 50-50 split between streaming and linear television would be acceptable.

Regardless of the outcome of the Pac-12 deal, the SEC and Big Ten will continue to maintain a significant financial advantage over other conferences. This disparity will make it challenging for the Pac-12 to compete in terms of facilities, coaching salaries, student-athlete support, mental health, academic success, nutrition, and training facilities.