Beleaguered Pac-12 says it will pursue expansion with Colorado, USC and UCLA all leaving next year

Conference Realignment Football
Posted at 1:41 PM, Jul 28, 2023

The Pac-12 Conference issued a statement aimed at stability after Colorado became the third school in a year to announce plans to leave. The nine schools remaining for the 2024-25 season were largely silent Friday.

Colorado on Thursday announced it would join the Big 12 beginning in 2024, joining Big Ten-bound Southern California and UCLA in an exodus that could continue in coming weeks and months. Their departures coincide with the expiration of the league's current media rights deals and the Pac-12 has not yet announced a lucrative deal going forward.

Shortly after CU's regents approved the move to the Big 12, the Pac-12 issued a statement pledging to soldier on. Possible Pac-12 expansion targets could include San Diego State and SMU.

“We are focused on concluding our media rights deal and securing our continued success and growth,” the Pac-12 said. “Immediately following the conclusion of our media rights deal, we will embrace expansion opportunities and bring new fans, markets, excitement and value to the Pac-12.”

The Pac-12's media rights contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, and Commissioner George Kliavkoff has not noted any progress in landing a new deal.

Oregon State was the only Pac-12 school to comment following the Colorado announcement. A founding member of the league in 1915, Oregon State is considered one of the least likely schools to be poached by another conference.

“Oregon State Athletics trusts that the Pac-12 will secure a media rights deal that will strongly benefit the institutions that are remaining loyal to this conference," Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said. "All of us at Oregon State will continue to work hard and diligently to continue the long-term membership and success of our athletic department at a national level.”

Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy said his school joins other members in reaffirming its commitment to the Pac-12.

“We are united by our shared values, our passion for the highest level of intercollegiate athletic competition, our leadership roles as Tier 1 research universities and our support for student-athletes’ academic and athletic excellence,” Murthy said.

The administrations and athletic departments at Utah and Washington declined comment. Arizona State, California and Washington State athletic departments also declined comment, as did the Arizona president's office.

Oregon and Stanford did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Arizona, Arizona State and Utah are believed to be potential targets for further Big 12 expansion, though those schools publicly committed to the Pac-12 prior to Colorado’s announced departure. The Big 12 has a six-year, $2 billion contract that is projected to net annual revenue of $31 million for each school.

Under then-Commissioner Kevin Warren, the Big Ten still had eyes out west even after landing USC and UCLA, with Oregon and Washington having the most appeal of the remaining Pac-12 schools. But Warren is gone now and his replacement, Tony Pettit, said earlier this week that the Big Ten isn’t eager to expand more.