On Friday, the Big Ten delivered a crushing combination to the Pac-12, announcing that Oregon and Washington would join next August, and the Big 12 ended their assault on the beleaguered conference by adding Arizona, Arizona State and Utah.
The day started with Hope and nine members for the Pac-12. It ended with the league, whose roots stretched back a century and had more NCAA championships than any other, was reduced to four schools and threatened with extinction.
“Today’s news is incredibly disappointing for student-athletes, fans, alumni and staff of the Pac-12 who cherish the 100+ year history, tradition and rivalries of the Conference of Champions,” the conference said in a statement. “We remain focused on ensuring each of our member universities have the best possible future.”
After the Big Ten paved the way for Pacific Northwest rivals to join the league, the Ducks were the first to make it official with a short video call that ended in a unanimous vote by the school’s 13 trustees. The Big Ten soon said their presidential council voted to include the Ducks with Washington.
“Our student athletes will compete at the highest level in collegiate athletics, and our alumni, friends and fans will be able to carry the Oregon spirit across the country,” said Oregon President John Karl Scholz.
The Big 12 meanwhile had their sights set on three other Pac-12 schools, a week after Colorado was lured away.
Arizona’s entry was approved Thursday night, and Big 12 presidents gave their approval to the state of Arizona and Utah on Friday. Shortly thereafter, the conference made it official. The Big 12 will be a 16-team conference stretching from Florida to Arizona in the fall of 2024.
“We’re excited to welcome Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12,” said Commissioner Brett Yormark, whose aggressive approach sent shockwaves through major collegiate sports in his first year in office. “The conference adds three world-class institutions, both academically and athletically, and the entire Big 12 looks forward to working with their presidents, athletic directors, student-athletes and administrators.”
Beyond this school year, the Pac-12 is included with: Stanford, California, Oregon State, and Washington State.
The Big Ten’s latest snap from their Rose Bowl affiliates conference is just over a year after landing in Southern California and at UCLA. The move will give the sprawling Big Ten 18 member schools, including four on the West Coast. The Big Ten will be the largest conference in major college sports, spanning 15 states from New Jersey to Washington.
“The Big Ten is a thriving conference with strong sporting and academic traditions, and we are excited and confident of competing at the highest level nationally,” said Washington President Ana Mari Cauce.
Former Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren had encouraged member schools to consider including Oregon and Washington after last summer’s conference won the two Los Angeles schools, the blow that knocked the Pac-12 out for more than a year has shaken.
All this has led to the fact that the traditional Conference of Champions is threatened with extinction.
Pac-12 officials met early Friday to determine whether the remaining schools, which then included Oregon and Washington, would accept the potential media rights deal with Apple unveiled by Commissioner George Kilavkoff this week.
Two people with knowledge of the discussion between the Big Ten and Oregon said the Ducks tended to stay in the Pac-12 late Thursday, raising the possibility others would stay there as well. Instead, Oregon officials told the Pac-12 early Friday that they were still unhappy with the Apple deal and that the school would once again work with the Big Ten.
“We are disappointed by the recent decisions of some of our fellow Pac-12s,” Washington State President Kirk Schulz and Athletic Director Pat Chun said Friday before the Apple Cup rivals announced their exit. “Although we had hoped our membership would remain.” Together, that outcome was always a possibility, and we’ve been working diligently to figure out what’s next for Washington State athletics. We have prepared for numerous scenarios, including our current situation.”
Less than two weeks ago, Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti said his presidents and chancellors wanted him to focus on transitioning USC and UCLA into the Big Ten, not further expansion. Now the two biggest remaining brands and perennial football powerhouses the Pac-12 are headed for new homes. Your closest conference neighbor, the University of Nebraska, will be more than 1,600 miles away by car.
Scholz confirmed that Oregon and Washington will receive a smaller payout compared to current Big Ten members, as well as USC and UCLA, who will each receive more than $60 million in media rights revenue from the league beginning next year , confirmed Scholz. A person familiar with the negotiations said the Ducks and Huskies would be paid about $30 million a year for the first six years of their attendance at the conference, with annual markups and the ability to draw on future payments.
Washington and Oregon were founding members of the Pacific Coast Conference in 1916, the organization that would eventually become the Pac-8, then the Pac-10, and finally the Pac-12.
While exit decisions by USC and UCLA heralded the demise of the Pac-12, the move by the Big 12 and Yormark last fall to early extend their media rights deals with ESPN and Fox was crucial.
That left a thin market for Kliavkoff and the Pac-12, ultimately leading to the streaming-heavy proposal with Apple that would have left its schools behind other Power Five conferences in revenue.