If you’ve been trapped under a boulder since Colorado announced its intention last week to rejoin the Big 12 Conference, the action hasn’t stopped. The Pac-12 is, at best, significantly destabilized (and has been for a long time, as discussed below), and the Big 12 has made no secret of its intention to take advantage of that distress. The State of Arizona, and both currently-P5 schools within it, are clearly in the crosshairs, and several things have happened this week to bring us to a potential tipping point today, August 3, 2023.
Let’s start at the beginning.
On Monday afternoon, news broke that George Kliavkoff, the Pac-12 Commissioner, would finally present the details of a long-awaited TV deal, the lack of which directly precipitated Colorado’s departure from the conference the week before. Clearly, one or multiple schools/groups in the Pac-12 agitated for those details in or around Colorado’s announcement, and Kliavkoff felt pressure to bring forward whatever he had, even if it wasn’t going to be good. A meeting was then set for Tuesday morning with Pac-12 ADs and school leaders. Shortly thereafter, a different meeting was set by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), the group that oversees both Arizona schools, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, in an arrangement that seems strange, at least to me. Information about what would be discussed in that meeting, which would immediately move to an executive session, was not forthcoming.
On Tuesday morning, that meeting occurred, and though we don’t have the best details about what the deal actually entailed, several conclusions can be drawn: 1) the likely per-school, per-year numbers were somewhere in the low $20M range, 2) the bulk of the deal would be non-linear (meaning non-ESPN/FOX/CBS/NBC) and based on streaming, with speculation/reports later focusing on Apple being the provider along the same lines as their deal Apple TV+ with MLS, and 3) the problem was far from solved. Around the same time as the likely end of the Pac-12 meeting, Arizona people started talking more about the obvious question—were they going to leave—saying a lot while not saying much at all. That afternoon (Pacific time), the ABOR convened its meeting, immediately went into executive session, and that was that. Reports continued to surface throughout Tuesday about how Kliavkoff had requested a further meeting after the Tuesday meeting, and while some reporters asked very obvious questions about how the presented deal actually worked, others focused on the alleged “alignment” coming out of the meetings. The fact that discussion started almost immediately about who would ultimately be responsible for killing the Pac-12 is a clue that alignment may have been a tad overblown (sidenote: put my money on “the Pac-12 actually died a year ago,” but we can have that discussion another time). As of Tuesday night, the Pac-12’s future “[stood] on a knife’s edge.”
Nobody seemed to take any steps back from that ledge on Wednesday, my friends. Though nothing overt happened vis-a-vis the Pac-12 for most of the day (as attention focused on FSU’s antics on the other side of the country), later in the day things started moving in an interesting direction. Where speculation had previously focused mostly on the University of Arizona’s potential to leave (at least from what I saw and not including random things on Reddit), things seemed to shift on Wednesday to include Arizona State and, no disrespect intended to the Sun Devils, but perhaps more importantly, schools like Oregon and Washington. Suddenly, the B1G was interested in looking at expansion again, with those two being among the rumored primary targets. Things seemed to be moving more quickly now on at least two different fronts. Then the ABOR stepped back into the fray and set another meeting today with a more defined agenda including “legal advice and discussion regarding university athletics” in an executive session.
So where are we now? The ABOR will meet tonight at 8:05 CT. Before that happens, the Big 12 will reportedly meet this afternoon. The combination of these two things has led to widespread speculation that an announcement tomorrow (Friday) could be in the offing, as the Big 12 meeting could be the venue for unofficial official approval to add one or more schools to the conference before the ABOR meets to authorize its school(s) to accept the as-yet unmade offer. Considering that this is how things go, in a relatively circular manner where offers aren’t made until they will be accepted and aren’t accepted until they are made, this all seems plausible. But we don’t know yet and won’t until something else breaks.
For now, all eyes (at least in Big 12 country) remain fixed on the Arizona(s) to see if they will be the next domino to fall. And while that seems likely, it is by no means certain considering that while I was writing this piece, the B1G signaled that it has interests of its own to protect and is looking at further westward expansion, as well. Time will tell who moves first and where the move happens.
UPDATE #1: Since posting this, the Board of Regents for Washington has announced its own meeting for later tonight.