Realignments have become increasingly common in college sports, especially since 2010. It was expected since teams no longer needed to travel regionally to compete. Still, it is also about schools wanting a larger slice of the massive revenue involved in D1 football and basketball paid by broadcasts and merchandising. The Big 10 made a splash in 2022 when the University of Southern California and the University of California Los Angeles announced that they were leaving the PAC 12 for the Big 10. Now Colorado has also announced that it will return to the Big 12.
The Power Five league that has won more NCAA championships than any other, the PAC 12, will lose three schools in 2024. The league is also without a new media rights contract – the current one expires in the summer of 2024. These developments lead some to wonder if the league, with roots going back to 1915 as the Pacific Coast Conference, will maintain its prime status or even survive. As it stands, the PAC-12 is now in the second tier of the power five alongside the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Big 12 Conference (Big 12), with the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and Big Ten Conference (Big 10) at the top with large long-term media contracts and perennial football powerhouses.
Not dead yet?
As things stand now, the PAC-12 still has Stanford, California Berkeley, Washington, and Oregon. If all of them stay put and the league gets a new media contract on par with the Big 12 ($2 billion over six years), it could be enough to keep the league intact. It will likely need to add a few others to raise interest (San Diego State and Southern Methodist University have been identified as good fits). Of course, these are big “ifs,” and the main four could all leave, which would be a catastrophe.
With the Big 10 scheduled to include 18 schools and two affiliated members in 2024, officials say that the conference is not interested in expanding further. This announcement is good news for the PAC-12 since it has already lost such crown jewels as USC and UCLA, but chances are there will be additional league changes. Watch this space.