Sunday was a typical July day like many others. The world of college football had finished yet another week of summer workouts leading up to conditioning for an upcoming season. There were five power conferences with aspirations of making the college football playoff. When Monday morning came, the landscape was turned on it’s head with news of future conference realignment.
On Monday morning, the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners informed the Big-12 of their intentions to leave the conference when their current media contracts expire. The programs will look to apply elsewhere, which many of whom believe to be the SEC. This move leaves the Big-12 conference with overwhelming uncertainty over the future of the league, while conferences such as the Big Ten look to poach members and expand.
With the ultimate fall of the Big-12, one has to wonder what these implications will have on the Pac-12. The previous Pac-10 expanded from ten members to twelve in 2011 with the additions of Utah & Colorado. The league has only appeared in two College Football Playoffs since the adoption in 2014, with Oregon being the sole member to reach a National Championship in the last decade. Below we will explore the options for the Pac-12 as we head toward the future of college football in the new era of super conferences.
OPTION 1: MERGE THE PAC-12 WITH REMAINING BIG-12 MEMBERS
With the loss of their two major programs in Texas and Oklahoma, the remaining programs within the Big-12 will have to scramble for replacements or seek entry to other conferences should the league dissolve. Programs like Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State May best be suited to link up with the Big Ten, as the league has a presence in the region with Nebraska and Iowa.
The Pac-12 could seek expansion by merging with the remaining Big-12 members like Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State. Nothing screams “pacific coast football” more than Waco, TX? With this merger, the Pac-12 can establish a recruiting presence and familiarity in the heart of Texas known as a talent hotbed, a land that is otherwise dominated by the SEC. However, none of the aforementioned programs have reached a college football playoff OR even played for a national championship in decades if ever at all. Should the Pac-12 explore this option, more changes will need to be put in place to keep the league from becoming the next on the chopping block.
OPTION 2: MERGE WITH THE BIG TEN TO FORM COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S FIRST 20-TEAM SUPER CONFERENCE
College football fans are already raving over the magnitude of early season matchups taking place between Oregon at Ohio State and Washington at Michigan in week 2. Imagine the impact on the conferences if these types of matchups became an annual occurrence. Imagine a powerhouse like Ohio State having to travel out west in November to face the USC Trojans in Los Angeles a week before “The Game” takes place between the Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines. The two leagues could join together and create the “Conference of Roses”, named after the long-standing BCS tie-in to the Rose Bowl.
A merger between the Pac-12 and Big Ten also makes sense when it comes to future television revenues and national exposure. A key hinderance for the Pac-12 is their inability to win primetime slots on networks like FOX, ABC, and CBS. In recent years, the league has settled for “Pac-12 after dark” games on ESPN networks with start times at bed time for most east coast viewers. An agreement to link up with the Big Ten would increase the availability of earlier afternoon games, and the magnitude of the matchups would entice major networks to air the events.
As the college football world reacts to the news of Texas and Oklahoma’s departure, conference realignment will shift into a complete frenzy focused on strengthening and expanding the current face of the Power 5. In times like these, it makes no sense for the Pac-12 to stand pat. Doing so may just lead to their ultimate demise.