Harlan:The slow demise of the PAC-12 Conference


Courtesy of PAC-12 conference.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Contributor

The slow demise…” a bit overdramatic, yes? However, it definitely looks like that and I know this isn’t necessarily related to Oregon State University but this news is too big not to say something about it because it affects the NCAA for the foreseeable future.

We’ve all seen the news that broke on June 30 about the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California leaving the PAC-12 Conference in 2024. My initial reaction when it broke was — to put it bluntly — that the PAC-12 is in a tenuous position beyond 2024.

This includes many decisions, including expansion opportunities and media rights deals up in the air with the departure of two flagship schools in the conference leaving for the BIG-10 Conference. The move to the conference by both schools now puts the membership total of the BIG-10 at 16 schools, which span across the east and west coasts of the country.

The move also came nearly a year after Texas and Oklahoma announced they were leaving the BIG-12 Conference to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025. The underlying reason for the move boils down to money, nothing else really. Also more TV exposure outside of the west coast as well, but money.

Now you might ask, “well, weren’t the TV deals and revenue that the PAC-12 had enough for both schools?” Sadly, no, there were not as many PAC-12 games outside of the west coast. The late starts in the evenings when people are asleep meant that many major networks would rather pay more money for games that they could show ear- lier in the day.

The BIG-10 Conference, which primarily has its games broadcasted on the FOX sports networks has their TV rights deals set to expire in 2023 and the new TV deals will garner almost double the revenue than what the PAC-12’s will be in 2024 according to The Athletic.

This falls on former PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and current Commissioner George Kliavkoff as they were not proactive enough in securing more revenue for the Conference, but would it have been enough to keep USC and UCLA to stay? Probably not, but let’s focus on what the conference will do going forward after USC and UCLA depart the PAC-12 Conference.

The Board of Commissioners for the PAC-12 Conference announced the day after the news broke in late June that they would be working together with the remaining 10 schools to look at possible expansion opportunities. Now, as to what that looks like, remains to be seen, but speculation mainly includes bringing in Mountain West Conference schools or a potential merger with another conference, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported.

To be honest with you, there isn’t a goodoption that will benefit all sides on this and that includes OSU.

There are several possibilities that have been floated, which include a merger with the BIG-12 Conference, a partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference, remaining in the status quo and a merger with the Mountain West Conference. I’m not going to break down all the pros and cons of each situation, but I will give an opinion on what would make the most sense for Oregon State and the conference going forward.

I think that personally, the moves that make the most sense are a merger with the BIG-12 based on geographics and TV markets along with staying in the PAC-12, but the latter option, the way I see it, would be dependent on revenue from new TV deals and what teams could be brought into the PAC-12.

Recently, the PAC-12 Board of Commissioners approved a fast-tracked media rights negotiations process as their deal was set to expire in 2024. Now, optics wise, this doesn’t look good since it comes right after the departures of USC and UCLA, but with uncertainty lurking in every corner the Board of Commissioners may want to settle that before other schools could potentially leave.

Here’s the thing: we will have to wait and see how things go in the next few weeks and expect that a decision won’t be made probably until around August or July when it comes to the new media rights deals being completed. I do understand though, with all the news every day, it feels like we’re closer and closer to the PAC-12 as a conference not existing anymore.

I for one expect the remaining ten schools to come up with a plan that either preserves the history of the conference or creates a partnership that benefits the PAC-12 moving forward. Otherwise, we might be witnessing the slow and painful demise of a college athletic conference right before our eyes.

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