Conference Realignment leaves the future of the PAC-12 in jeopardy

Courtesy of PAC-12 conference.
Courtesy of PAC-12 conference.

With the announcements of three universities leaving the PAC-12 Conference after 2024. The future of the PAC-12 Conference remains uncertain as more schools look to join other athletic conferences.

The University of Southern California, the University of California Los Angeles, and the University of Colorado Boulder have all announced that 2024 will be their last year in the conference. Amidst all this news, according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, the remaining Four Corner schools (the University of Arizona, the University of Utah, and Arizona State University) are looking at a potential departure from the PAC-12 Conference.  

According to Thamel, the three schools are expected to either leave the PAC-12 Conference together or not leave at all. 

While the fates of these schools remaining in the PAC-12 Conference have yet to be decided, the University of Oregon and the University of Washington are being rumored as potential expansion candidates for the BIG-10 Conference according to Thamel, which already added both USC and UCLA.  

According to Thamel, the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University have also been named as potential expansion candidates for the BIG-10 Conference. 

In a Thursday morning meeting, presidents of the BIG-10 Conference authorized BIG-10 Commissioner Tony Petitti to explore expansion and bring back more information on the addition of both schools to the Conference. No vote or offer has been given to these schools now from the BIG-10.

Oregon departing from the PAC-12 Conference would likely mark the end of Oregon State University’s  ‘Rivalry Series’ with Oregon. 

Both Oregon and Oregon State have been playing football since 1894 and have had 126 meetings in both Corvallis and Eugene over that time. Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Scott Barnes have each issued statements reaffirming OSU’s commitment to staying a member of the PAC-12 Conference. However, with more schools looking at their options outside of the PAC-12 Conference, they may need to look at all options on the table.

According to Thamel, Oregon isn’t expected to decide on leaving the PAC-12 Conference, but if they decide to leave in the next two days, the University of Washington would likely follow Oregon to the BIG-10 Conference. 

Both the Arizona and Washington Board of Regents are expected to meet on Thursday evening to discuss their respective school’s futures in the PAC-12 Conference.   

The Arizona Board of Regents met on Tuesday to discuss a potential departure from the PAC-12, but no action was taken during that meeting. According to college football insider Brett McMurphy, there may be a decision on the fate of Arizona and Arizona State leaving the PAC-12 from Thursday evening’s meeting. 

The Washington Board of Regents is expected to meet at 9:00 pm Thursday and include an executive session, but no action is expected to be taken. 

Depending on what both Arizona schools decide to do, the University of Utah Board of Regents will likely make their decision on their membership in the PAC-12 Conference in an August 8 meeting, according to Brandon Judd of Deseret News. 

The survival of the PAC-12 Conference beyond 2024 hinges upon what decisions these schools take in their respective meetings. If all these schools end up leaving, this likely marks the end of the Pac-12 Conferences’ existence and the end of a Power Five conference in college athletics. 

If schools do leave the Conference, they would not have to pay an exit fee from the PAC-12 since the current media rights agreement expires after 2024. 

However, if the remaining nine members of the PAC-12 Conference agree to stay members past 2024, expansion options include  San Diego State University, Southern Methodist University, and Colorado State University, according to former Oregonian sports writer John Canzano. According to The Athletic, there have even been talks of a Conference merger with the Atlantic Coast Conference, but nothing has been substantial. 

With the uncertainty around the fate of the PAC-12 Conference and the fate of seven of the remaining nine members of the PAC-12 up in the air, any decision that is made will significantly alter the college athletics landscape beyond 2024. 

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