The Big 12 is involved in extensive discussions to add several Pac-12 programs to bolster its membership following USC and UCLA’s defection to the Big Ten, sources told CBS Sports. At least four teams are being considered with the potential for the Big 12 to add more as the realignment continues to rock.
Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah were specifically mentioned as the teams targeted by the Big 12, sources told CBS Sports. There are also plans to add Oregon and Washington to make the Big 12 an 18-team league, the largest in the FBS.
A merger of the Big 12 and the Pac-12, in some form, is also a possibility.
“It’s all on the table,” a Big 12 source said.
There’s no question the Big 12 need to be aggressive in their expansion, another conference source said.
Despite attempts by the Big 12, the Pac-12 released a statement Monday saying it would immediately begin negotiations on its next television deal, with the intention of moving forward with at least its remaining 10 members. It’s possible more will be added to the mix, according to a Pac-12 source. Current Pac-12 deal expires in 2024
However, a source close to the negotiations said that doesn’t necessarily mean the Pac-12 will all be together “in three months.”
The Pac-12 is expected to enter an exclusive 30-day negotiation window with current rightsholders Fox and ESPN before receiving offers from other bidders.
Ahead of the Pac-12 statement on Monday, an industry source suggested the Big 12 should grow quickly with Pac-12 teams and then go to market early with rightsholders to leapfrog the Pac-12. The Pac-12 deal with Fox and ESPN expires in 2024. The Big 12 deal with the same networks expires in 2025.
“All of these things have been brought up,” a Big 12 source said.
Adding at least those four schools would stretch the Big 12 further into the Rockies time zone, creating “travel partners” for new member BYU while adding a rival for the Cougars in the Utes. Arizona schools are two hours apart and feature Phoenix as a major market acquisition for the conference.
What the Big 12 can’t afford to do, according to multiple industry sources, is stay loyal. There’s always the lingering question of who even has leverage to add teams between the Pac-12 and the Big 12.
An industry source gave what was called a slight leaning towards the Big 12 by being able to snatch teams from the other conference.
The gain value difference between the Big 12 and the Pac-12 would be “negligible” after this realignment cycle, but as it grew, the Big 12 would at least get stronger while decreasing the Pac-12.
Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah contribute an annual average value (AAV) that matches at least the 12 Big 12 members who will remain in the league once Texas and Oklahoma will leave in 2025.
That’s one of the reasons the Big 12 expansion would work in this case, because the conference wouldn’t be aiming to cut its slices of the media rights pie. It’s not yet known if the addition of Oregon and Washington is viewed the same way by the Big 12.
Of course, all of this is assuming that Fox, a half-partner of ESPN in both conferences, is even interested in making a deal with one or both of the reconstituted leagues. Otherwise, ESPN could become the primary rights holder, if interested.
There is a relationship to mend with the Big 12 after outgoing commissioner Bob Bowlsby alleged a conspiracy last summer involving ESPN, the SEC and the American. New commissioner Brett Yormark takes office on August 1.
The Pac-12’s projected AAV dropped significantly from $500 million per year (about $42 million per school) to $300 million ($30 million) for the remaining 10 teams after the league lost USC and UCLA, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Navigate, a sports and entertainment consulting group, said in March that members of a 12-team Big 12 would earn $52 million by 2029. Other industry insiders disputed that figure.
Notre Dame’s “preference” is to remain independent, according to Sports Illustrated. The possibility of making between $80 million and $100 million in the Big Ten could impact that position, but Notre Dame has already left money on the table — in fact, for decades.
The Fighting Irish have always valued their programming independence and unique marketing power. If Notre Dame remains independent, attention is clearly on the Big 12 and the realigning Pac-12.
The consolidation of money and power at the top among the SEC’s 32 and Big Ten programs has sent shockwaves through college athletics.
What will the playoffs look like in 2026 when a unanimous vote is no longer needed to approve an updated structure? Will there even be playoffs?
It is imperative that 98 schools below the SEC and Big Ten try to get as close to superconferences as possible. The ACC is locked into its deal until 2036, assuming there are no defections.
For the Big 12, having the flexibility to increase their earning power, media markets and brand image are compelling enough reasons to consider expansion.