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What is going on with the Pac-12? A complete timeline of a chaotic couple years

Credit: Utah athletics

Right now, there might not be a bigger - or more confusing - story in all of college sports than the future of the Pac-12.

We all know that USC and UCLA are leaving in a year from now, but what it seems like the generally public - outside of Pac-12 fans haven't fully wrapped their heads around is the league's TV deal ends literally less than a year from now.

In 12 months, there is nothing binding the league together.

Because of it, it's led to a wild few months of speculation, with reports of a new media rights deal on the horizon, then counter-reports discussing how certain media entities have no interest in the league. There have been near constant rumors for months of league teams defecting, but nothing set in stone. This weekend we even had San Diego State essentially get kicked out of the Mountain West (at least for now) while waiting for a Pac-12 bid.

The point is, unless you're a diehard, it's all very confusing. But how did we get here?

Here is a full rundown of everything you need to know about the current state of the Pac-12 - and what might be next?

Former commissioner Larry Scott's role in all of this

The spot the Pac-12 is in goes back around 15 years when Scott was hired, and it’s been almost nothing but missteps since.

Scott was hired in July of 2009 as the commissioner of the then Pac-10 conference. Utah and Colorado joined the conference in 2011 and that same year the conference established the Pac-12 Network. The network was an issue from the start with Scott moving the overall headquarters to a massively expensive building based in San Francisco, where overspending became a prime issue. The biggest glaring issue with the Pac-12 is that the network did not have a wide reach from the jump, with there never being any substantial deal with the biggest satellite television company in the United States in Direct TV. Another big issue was that every other conference had the backing of a major television network - most notably, ESPN with the SEC and FOX with the Big Ten. The Pac-12 Network was and is independent and is a huge reason why the conference is in as much trouble as they are in today.

Scott’s missteps extend throughout the conference because the Pac-12 had an opportunity to take Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech, and obviously that didn’t come to pass. Scott’s tenure finally ended in June of 2021, where the Pac-12 presidents finally stopped enabling his constant mess-ups.

A new commissioner comes in, but things somehow get worse

George Kliavkoff was then hired and was immediately seen as a better option, but his biggest mistake was his refusal to expand the Pac-12’s membership when it seemed like the Big 12 would collapse after Oklahoma and Texas decided to leave for the SEC. There was a moment in time where the Big 12 appeared weak and the Pac-12 could capitalize. And instead, the league decided to stand pat.

It came off like the conference was saying they were better off with its current membership and didn’t even want to entertain other members.

That attitude of elitism led to the moment that changed the league forever: June 30th, 2022.

When USC and UCLA announced they would leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.

And now, the circus to get a media rights deal begins

The USC/UCLA move was obviously a massive ripple effect, and the Pac-12's first move following the decision was to reopen its media rights a year early before they were supposed to, in order to get a jump on the negotiating.

Unfortunately, they didn't get the initial interest they'd hoped for.

FOX, NBC, and CBS all seem to have said thanks but no thanks because of the Big Ten getting a massive deal that set the market, and then the Pac-12 was jumped by the Big 12, which re-upped its own media rights for numbers that can range anywhere from $32 million to $45 million based on incentives and escalators in the contract with both FOX and ESPN involved.

With money spent in other places, FOX’s inventory is now full, and ESPN wants the Pac-12, but on a lower number because they don’t need the conference as much as they originally thought. The Pac-12 wants numbers similar or more than the Big 12, but the money just isn’t there with both UCLA and USC gone, and the Pac-12 missing its biggest television market in Los Angeles. San Diego State and SMU are seen as the prime expansion targets for the Pac-12, but they don’t make up for the loss of the LA schools. As mentioned above, it's tough to even know what San Diego State's future is after last weekend's public back and forth with the Mountain West.

Beyond the traditional media outlets, there has been talk of interest from the streaming companies (mainly Amazon and Apple) being involved with the conference too, but they don’t offer enough visibility, which was Pac-12’s initial biggest downfall under Larry Scott. There are also some other rumors out there that ION television is involved, and the deal would put the Pac-12 on the CW, which is also an awful option because ION is not in every Pac-12 market.

The Pac-12 also only has itself to blame for the position they find themselves in because there have been different athletic directors and presidents saying “fake” deadlines of when a deal will be available. Quotes like “we’ll know in a few weeks,” or “we should have something in a month or two,” have been thrown around since the 2022-2023 sports season ended from administrators (either presidents or AD's) at Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State, and Utah. Kliavkoff also put a “fake” deadline out and the conference released a “unity” statement that also had a deadline in it too. They’ve done nothing but hurt themselves, whether it’s from Pac-12 leadership or through journalists that have been used as mouthpieces for the conference too.

The latest twist: Is San Diego State now off the board as a legitimate expansion candidate?

The biggest recent news revolving around the conference is that San Diego State is desperately wanting to leave the Mountain West and needed to leave by June 30th because the dues they would pay doubled if they were not officially out of the conference by July 1. The Aztecs sent a letter effectively “resigning” from the conference at the end of June, but June passed and there was no Pac-12 deal, which means they had nothing to show San Diego State in terms of an offer.

Now, the Aztecs are claiming they never resigned, but the Mountain West says they did and wants the money.

What's next?

The latest news on an actual deal remains quiet, with potential news of a deal being ready by Labor Day, but nothing substantial. All signs point to the money not being anywhere near what it should be, which is why there are so many rumors surrounding mainly Colorado and Arizona potentially leaving for the Big 12. Arizona State and Utah are more questionable because Utah loves the Pac-12 and doesn’t want to follow BYU, while Arizona State president, Michael Crow, is the biggest supporter of the Pac-12 of the conference presidents but is also one of the biggest reasons why the conference is in as much trouble as they are.

The Pac-12 is a mess right now and doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to signing a deal. The minute there is a concrete deal presented, that’s when the dominoes could fall with the four corner schools and even Washington and Oregon, who want to leave for the Big Ten the first chance they get. This GIANT mess should have some clarity by the time football starts, but at this point who knows? The only thing we know for certain is that the Pac-12 is in trouble.

Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus


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