Friday brought about the rapid demise of "The Conference of Champions" as Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah all fled the PAC-12 for greener pastures ($$$$) in 2024.
The five schools join Colorado in PAC-12 splitsville. The Buffs announced their return to the Big 12 a week earlier and will now be joined by the Wildcats, Sun Devils and Utes. Meanwhile, Washington and Oregon are off to the Big Ten to team up with fellow PAC-12 members USC and UCLA.
The mass exodus leaves just four programs - Oregon State, Cal, Stanford and Washington State - holding the PAC-12 bag and wondering what went wrong so quickly.
The demise of the PAC-12 is historic. As touted on its own website, conference members had collected 553 NCAA Championships (327 men's, 204 women's, and 22 combined). That's 254 more than the next closest conference, the B1G. The titles came in 29 different men’s and women’s sports, but the vast majority of those were in sports that generated little or no revenue.
Revenue is what every school is seeking, even while making it infinitely more difficult to win a conference, or national, championship.
Based on the current FanDuel odds, SEC mainstays Georgia, Alabama and LSU are 3 of the top 5 favorites to win the national title this year. Tennessee is tied for #11 while future SEC members Texas (T-9) and Oklahoma (17) are among the top 17.
The B1G has the other two slots in the top 5 with Ohio State at No. 3 and Michigan 4th. That conference also has current members Penn State at No. 8 and Wisconsin at No. 18, along with future member USC tied for 6th while Washington and Oregon are tied at 13.
For the Big 12, Utah (16) is the only future member in the top 16 to join current members Texas and Oklahoma..
Meanwhile, the PAC-12 has four current members among the top 16 betting favorites to bring home all the marbles this season with USC, Washington, Oregon and Utah.
If you're keeping track, that's 15 of this year's top 18 betting favorites that will reside in just three conferences next season.
The other 3 spots are taken by ACC members Clemson (T-6) and Florida State at No. 9, and pseudo ACC member Notre Dame (T-11).
A year ago, the landscape was so much different. When Texas and Oklahoma announced they were bailing on the Big 12 for the brighter lights of the SEC, the Big 12 was the conference that was predicted to be in complete demise. It scrambled to add an independent (BYU), and three programs from the American Athletic Conference (UCF, Cincinnati and Houston).
Now, the Big 12 rivals the B1G in the scope of its geographical footprint. The B1G literally reaches from sea to shining sea, from Los Angeles to New Jersey. The Big 12 comes close, with programs strewn from Arizona to Florida.
“We are thrilled to welcome Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12,” said Commissioner Brett Yormark. “The Conference is gaining three premier institutions both academically and athletically, and the entire Big 12 looks forward to working alongside their presidents, athletic directors, student-athletes and administrators.”
"The Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors are pleased to welcome the University of Oregon and the University of Washington to the Big Ten Conference," said COP/C Chair and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones. "When considering the full spectrum of academic, athletic and research excellence, the alignment with our member institutions is extremely clear. We are excited to welcome them and look forward to collaborating and competing with them in the years ahead."
This was posted on Twitter.
Statement from the Pac-12 Conference: pic.twitter.com/XKwEqw9A3C— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) August 5, 2023
Washington State reaction.
B1G (18 schools)
BIG 12 (16 schools)
SEC (16 schools)
In an odd twist, all of these moves have actually given the ACC some clout at the broadcast rights renegotiation table since there are now just four autonomy conferences remaining. Clemson, Florida State and Miami are among seven schools that have increasingly been threatening to leave the ACC over the last several months. The other members of that coalition are UNC, NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
A Hail Mary savior for the conference would be finally getting Notre Dame to commit 100% to the ACC in football. Broadcast rights would gain immediate leverage for renegotiation, and all the schools might agree on an uneven distribution of that money to avoid the much bigger headache of finding somewhere new to go.
Otherwise, a reformation of the ACC could begin as those seven schools should be able to find a home in one of the Big Three conferences (B1G, Big 12, or SEC).
Duke is an 8th ACC school that carries enough basketball clout to be in the conversation.
The PAC-12 had been hoping to potentially form a coalition with the ACC, but that was before Friday's developments left zero attraction for that pursuit.
Cal and Stanford are in the huge San Francisco TV market, and both are at the top of the academics ladder, so they do offer some benefit to a major conference. Moving forward as independents has been discussed, but we don't see that as a survivable option. Even if Notre Dame remains independent, Duke moves that route, and Washington State and Oregon State are urged to do the same, it still makes non-conference scheduling nearly untenable to manage.
But picture this if you will - the formation of an entirely new conference that cobbles together the remaining 4 PAC-12 schools, and the 6 left-over ACC programs. That's not a bad collection of schools with Stanford, Cal, Washington State and Oregon State out west, joining Syracuse, Pitt, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Louisville in the east.
We are trying NOT to break up any other conferences, but Mountain West members San Diego State, Boise State, Fresno State and Air Force are ripe for the picking. It would also be cool to see current independent Army and American Conference member Navy be aligned with the AFA in the same conference. This new 16-team league would own the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy competition, and also have a footing in 9 of the top 30 media markets - Atlanta (6), Washington, D.C. (8), Boston (9), San Francisco (10), Denver (16), Charlotte (21), Raleigh-Durham (23), Baltimore (28) and San Diego (30).
It beats the more practical solution of Oregon State and Washington State joining the Mountain West which would mean a massive step down in TV rights money and football prestige. It also rescues the remaining ACC schools, and offers a step-up for some attractive MWC schools.
One thing is certain - a lot of aspirin is being consumed by accounts, administrators, lawyers, and even TV executives, as they try to determine their future in major college sports.