Big Ten Exploring Expansion Amid Pac-12’s Impending Implosion

Posted on: August 4, 2023, 10:24h. 

Last updated on: August 4, 2023, 11:05h.

Chancellors and presidents representing current members of the Big Ten conference have agreed to explore expansion by adding the University of Washington and the University of Oregon from the Pac-12.

Washington, Oregon
The University of Washington and Oregon, seen here during a Pac-12 conference football game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene in 2022, could join the Big Ten conference. (Image: Getty)

If the Pac-12 implodes, two other schools from California could also join the Big Ten. Stanford and the University of California, Berkley are also in consideration.

The first stage of the Big Ten expansion will take place at the start of the 2024 football season. UCLA and Southern Cal were the first two teams to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten. Losing UCLA and USC was the first major blow to the long-standing conference from the West Coast.

Power 2 Arms Race Between the SEC and Big Ten

Two super-power conferences are forming in college football. The SEC and Big Ten expanded to 16 teams, but their newest expansion efforts could result in a conference consisting of 20 teams.

The SEC landed a huge coup in 2021 by adding Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12. Both schools were founding members of the Big 12.

To counter the move, the Big Ten focused its expansion into the West. In 2022, the Big Ten poached USC and UCLA from the Pac-12.

The Big 12 tried to avoid the exodus of its top football schools to the SEC. The Big 12 fought to remain relevant following the emergence of the Power 2. They agreed to invite Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU to join the Big 12.

The Big 12 isn’t done with its expansion plans. In July, it voted to allow Colorado to return to the Big 12. This week, it also voted on the addition of Arizona. Meanwhile, Utah and Arizona State are ready to leave the Pac-12 as well.

There’s a potential scenario in place in which the Pac-12 is no longer in existence by 2025, and six teams from the Pac-12 would be members of the Big Ten, and four teams from the Pac-12 would join the Big 12. After the Big Ten and Big 12 complete their raids, the Pac-12 will be left with two original teams, as Oregon State and Washington State look like they could be the last two standing.

Meanwhile, several schools from the ACC are getting antsy. Clemson, Florida State, and Miami are all interested in joining the SEC.

The Slow Implosion of the Pac-12

The Pac-12 failed to get ahead of the pack and renegotiate its television and streaming contract, which is over at the end of this upcoming season. It was out-hustled by the other Power Five conferences, which worked out deals before their expiration dates. The Pac-12 dawdled while the SEC and Big Ten inked long-term extensions and expanded into super-power conferences.

The Pac-12 was slow to respond after losing USC and UCLA to the Big Ten last year. There were rumors that San Diego State would join the Pac-12. Conference officials dragged their feet until the SDSU Aztecs went deep in the 2023 March Madness men’s college basketball tournament.

Pac-12 officials were reticent to name a second replacement to join San Diego State, and they were content with having 11 teams for the moment.

Several Mountain West teams like UNLV, Nevada, and Boise State were in consideration for Pac-12 inclusion. Once again, the passive Pac-12 was outmaneuvered by hyper-aggressive conferences from the Power Five. While the SEC and Big Ten were slugging it out for supremacy in college football, the Big 12 wisely expanded to remain relevant.

The Pac-12 should have joined forces with the Big 12 to form their own super conference called the Big Pac-12 or the Pac-Big 12. Instead, the Pac-12’s indecisiveness has put it on the brink of extinction.

Pac-12’s Apple Scramble, Big Ten Swoops In

The Pac-12’s television deal expires at the end of this season, and without a new one in place, Colorado bailed because of the uncertainty of its future TV deal.

Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff met with his conference’s presidents and chancellors and presented a new potential deal. The best offer came from Apple’s subscription-based streaming service, Apple+. The terms of the deal were low and had incremental improvements, but it was inferior compared to the lucrative deals that the other conferences locked up.

Kliavkoff gambled that Apple’s offer to stream Pac-12 games would be enough to dissuade schools from joining the Big 12 after Colorado left. Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah are also being courted by the Big 12, and Arizona officials voted to join the conference.

On Thursday, Big Ten presidents and chancellors gathered for a meeting in which they authorized commissioner Tony Petitti to explore the addition of Washington and Oregon to the Big Ten.

The Big Ten has partnerships with four different networks, including Fox, CBS, NBC, and the Big Ten Network. In 2022, the Big Ten locked up a seven-year contract with Fox, CBS, and NBC worth $8 billion.

USC and UCLA play in the largest media market in the Pac-12, but the Los Angeles-based schools weren’t content with the current TV deal. USC and UCLA were underappreciated by Pac-12 officials, so they didn’t have to think twice about joining the Big Ten.

If the Big 12 is successful with adding more Pac-12 schools to their conference, then the Big Ten will continue its expansion with the other California-based schools. That would clear the path for Cal and Stanford to join the Big Ten.

2023 Futures for the Pac-12 and Big Ten

Defending champion Georgia is the consensus favorite to win another national championship at +215 odds, according to DraftKings. Alabama is second overall on the futures board at +600 odds.

Ohio State (+650) and Michigan (+800) are right behind the top two squads from the SEC. Ohio State and Michigan represent the premier Big Ten teams on DraftKings’ College Football Playoff futures board.

USC is the highest member of the Pac-12 on the futures board at +1600 odds to win the national title, and the sixth-highest team overall. Washington and Oregon are both +4000 odds to win the national championship, and they’re in the top 15 overall.

USC is the betting favorite at +190 odds to win the Pac-12 Championship Game in December. The Trojans are ahead of Oregon (+300), Washington (+320), Utah (+600), Oregon State (+1100), and UCLA (+1400). Even though Colorado added Deion Sanders as their head coach, they’re a long shot at +14000 odds to win the Pac-12 crown.

Ohio State and Michigan are cofavorites at +170 odds to win the Big Championship Game in December. They’re ahead of Penn State (+600), Wisconsin (+750), Iowa (+1200), and Illinois (+3000).

Northwestern fired head coach Pat Fitzgerald in the wake of a massive bullying and hazing scandal. Northwestern is a long shot to win the Big Ten conference championship at +30000 odds.