The 2023 PAC-12 season will boast one of the best players in the country. It will also produce deep competition up and down the conference and it holds some of the most intriguing storylines in all of college football…
A far cry from what the conference will look like in 2024.
As excitement for the 2023 season was revving up, the news of the imploding PAC-12 brought us back down to the modern-day reality of college football.
Money, Money, Money
But what happened to the PAC-12?
In a word… Money. Money is what happened.
In July 2021, Texas and Oklahoma announced they had accepted invitations to join the SEC. An announcement that ultimately changed the course of college football.
The SEC was already a college football powerhouse. But the additions of Texas and Oklahoma turned them into a super-conference without geographical restrictions.
A year later, USC and UCLA accepted invites to join the BIG 10. Throwing off the geographical alignment of the mid-west conference.
Losing the two Los Angeles-based programs was the beginning of the end for the PAC-12.
In 2022, the BIG 12 and the BIG 10 signed lucrative TV media rights deals. The BIG 12 extended their contract with ESPN and Fox for six years worth $2.3 billion. And the BIG 10 signed with CBS for a seven-year, $8 billion exclusive deal.
Has TV Money Killed The Pac-12
The SEC and the ACC were already tied into lucrative deals with media groups, leaving the PAC-12 the only conference without a deal for the 2024 season as their partnership with ESPN and FOX was expiring.
Throughout the winter and spring, the PAC-12 was in search of a new media partner. And in July this year, ESPN decided to withdraw its offer. A move that would leave the PAC-12 floundering.
Not long after, Colorado announced their decision to leave the conference and join the BIG 12. Yet another blow for PAC-12’s search for a media partner, as the 2024 season is now without USC, UCLA, and the attraction of Deion Sanders in Colorado.
With the PAC-12 on the brink of collapse, on August 2nd, commissioner George Kliavkoff presented a media deal from Apple to the remaining members.
The deal was sub-par in comparison to other Power-5 conferences. And seeing what the BIG 10 and BIG 12 had to offer, programs were keen to abandon ship.
In the following days, Oregon and Washington left for the BIG 10 while Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah followed Colorado to the BIG 12.
In short, the PAC-12 failed to negotiate a deal that could compete with other Power-5 conferences. The Apple deal they presented to its members would give them around $20 million per annum, considerably less than that of other Power-5 schools.
So, just like that the PAC-12 is dead in the water. With four teams remaining, the future is uncertain for the once-decorated conference.
But these events shouldn’t just be looked at as a failing by the PAC-12. It should be considered as the beginning of a new era of college football. An era run by money and power as opposed to tradition and pride.
What does this mean for the future?
The idea of super-conferences in college football has been a pipeline nightmare for years. We always knew it was coming, but we tried not to think about it.
The demise of the PAC-12 signals the start of this nightmare.
When USC and UCLA, two programs based in Los Angeles, joined the BIG 10, a conference existing of mid-west programs, it changed the landscape of conference alignment.
For decades conferences have dreamed of being able to add whatever teams they like, regardless of location, to boost their prestige. Conferences have tried to push the boundaries in the past, but never as braising as this.
They have opened the door for conferences to completely disregard geographical limitations.
No longer will the SEC need to be confined to the South East. No longer does the ACC need to be for Atlantic Coast-located programs only.
This gives conferences complete free reign to invite whatever programs they wish to join.
Meaning, programs will begin to follow the money.
When conferences abandon geography, we miss out on long-lasting rivalry games and traditions.
Washington and Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, UCLA and Cal, and Colorado and Utah will all be in different conferences next season.
Sure, there are protected rivalries. But they are saved for the bigger rivals like Colorado and Colorado State. Who knows when we’ll see another Rumble in the Rockies game between Colorado and Utah?
And it’s a damn shame.
As if NIL deals and the transfer portal weren’t altering the college football landscape enough, the now impending super-conferences threaten to change it beyond all recognition.
This article was written by our new writer Ross Love. Thanks to Ross for contributing this article and you can catch more of his work here in the future.