Report: Much-discussed partnership between Pac-12, Big 12 falls apart
There will be no Pac-12/Big 12 merger.
According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, talks between the two leagues about a partnership in some form or fashion have officially ended. Thamel, citing sources, reported Monday that officials from the Big 12 told Pac-12 officials Monday they’re no longer interested in exploring a partnership that had been extensively discussed since news broke USC and UCLA will leave for the Big Ten two weeks ago.
Thamel reported there have been at least three Zoom calls between top league officials in the two conferences, as well as other calls between various other officials and legal teams to discuss options. The Big 12 felt there wasn’t enough financial incentive to make the partnership work, per Thamel.
From his reporting:
A Pac-12 source briefed on the conversations said that the Big 12 had expressed interest on Friday in possibly exploring a full merger. The Big 12 source said of the three options laid out by the Pac-12—pooling rights, a scheduling concept or fully combining the leagues—that the only scenario that could have potentially driven value because of the sheer numbers of schools and populations areas was a full merger of the leagues.
The Pac-12 source indicated the Big 12 was interested in that option. A Big 12 source said the Big 12 needed more time to explore that option further, which it did over the weekend and decided not to explore any options further.
The Pac-12’s expiring media rights deal coinciding with the exit of its most marketable teams, USC and UCLA, is proving to be a sticking point in conversations with both the Big 12 and the ACC. The league is facing a potential chasm between its annual media rights payouts and those of the Big Ten and the SEC. It’s that financial reality that precipitated the Los Angeles breakup and leaves the future of the league murky.
The Big 12 is reportedly keen on adding Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado. Though various kinds of statements from those programs have reiterated a commitment to the Pac-12, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark came out during his interview at Big 12 Media Days last week and declared the league open for business.
“We are exploring all options and we are open for business,” Yormark told gathered media when asked about reported interest in Pac-12 schools. “Optionality is good, and we’re vetting through all of them. I think it’s fair to say I’ve received a lot of phone calls, a lot of interest. People understand the direction of the Big 12 and we’re exploring those levels of interest. Nothing is imminent, but we’re working hard to make sure we position the Big 12 in the best possible way going forward.”
Thamel reported that because the Big 12 media rights can’t be negotiated until 2024, Pac-12 schools have “no motivation” to join the Big 12, but even if the Big 12 doesn’t want to partner with the entire Pac-12, it could still try to simply poach the schools it wants.
The Pac-12’s annual media day is coming up on Friday, July 29. Commissioner George Kliavkoff will take the dais in front of a room full of reporters. That figures to be a newsworthy affair.