College Football Realignment Leads to the End of the Pac-12
By: Jason Berg
College football as we know it is coming to an end. For years, the Power 5 dominated the NCAA landscape and were the best and most influential conferences in college sports. The Power 5 conferences consist of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC. Starting in 2024, it will become the Power 4.
The Pac-12 (known as the PCC at the time) was founded in 1915. After over 100 years of rich history and tradition, this conference will be coming to an end. Starting in 2024, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington will join the Big Ten and Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah will join the Big 12. These moves forced Cal and Stanford’s hands as they will be going to the ACC. When next season rolls around there will only be two teams remaining in the Pac-12, which are Oregon State and Washington State. These schools will likely be in search of a new home for the future.
The main reason behind all of the disruption and conference shuffling is a result of television deals and media rights being offered to other conferences and the schools in them. In 2012, the Pac-12 began a 12 year deal with ESPN and FOX that would expire in 2024. The Pac-12 had many opportunities to get a new media deal in place, but were unable to agree on terms. According to John Canzano, ESPN offered the Pac-12 $30 million per-school, but the Pac-12 wanted $50 million which resulted in ESPN taking themselves out of the negotiations. Since Fox had deals with other conferences, they were never involved in serious discussions for the Pac-12 media rights.
The Pac-12’s inability to secure a TV deal forced schools to seek out better opportunities to secure their financial futures. The Pac-12’s fate was sealed when the first domino fell in the summer of 2022. On June 30, 2022, UCLA and USC announced they would be heading to the Big Ten. Just a month and a half later, the Big Ten signed a 7-year, $7 billion deal with CBS, Fox, and NBC, according to ESPN. The addition of these two teams helped the Big Ten agree to this record breaking deal by expanding their current television market from coast to coast.
In October of 2022, the Big 12 agreed to a six year extension with ESPN and FOX that will run from the 2024–25 season through 2030-31. The deal is worth $2.28 billion, according to Sports Business Journal. This past July, Colorado was the next team to leave the Pac-12. They announced they would be heading to the more financially stable Big 12.
According to The Athletic, the Pac-12 and the 9 teams remaining tried to get a deal done with Apple. With the uncertainty of the streaming service and limited exposure, the remaining teams started looking for more stable situations with increased revenue. The major blow landed just a few days later. On August 4th, 2023, Oregon and Washington announced they were headed to the Big Ten and Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah announced they were on their way to the Big 12.
At this point, the Pac-12’s fate was sealed. On September 1st, 2023, Cal and Stanford announced that they will be joining the ACC. This left them with the two remaining teams, Oregon State and Washington State. The Pac-12 ran out of options with no real solution in sight, resulting in the end of the Pac-12 conference as we know it and the beginning of the new normal in college football. The original Power 5 will now be known as the Power 4.
The Pac-12 fans will have no choice but to sit back and watch their final season as a traditional conference powerhouse before adjusting to realignment. Before this 109 year old conference comes to a close, they are delivering one last season to remember. The Pac-12 started the season strong with eight teams ranked in the Week 3 AP Poll. This was the most of any conference, with no other conference having more than 5. With the talent of all of these teams and the new rivalries developed from realignment, this is set up to be one of the most competitive seasons in Pac-12 history. As they say, save the best for last.