RIP Pac-12: Winners and Losers from the Pac-12’s Implosion

“Black Friday” has become a phrase associated with binge holiday shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.

For the once proud Pac-12 Conference, however, “Black Friday” will always be Friday, August 4, 2023.

The “Conference of Champions”, as Bill Walton reminds viewers several times during each basketball broadcast, has been around in different forms since Washington, Oregon, Cal and Oregon State got together to form the Pacific Coast Conference in 1915.

Now, though, with Oregon and Washington defecting to the Big Ten, followed closely thereafter by moves to the Big 12 by Arizona, Utah and Arizona State, the Pac-12 is, as we speak, the Pac-4, with orphans Oregon State, Washington State, Cal and Stanford looking for teams to play come the 2024 season.

While there is plenty of blame to pass around for the demise of the Pac-12, the fact remains that at least eight of the conference members will be wearing logos of different conferences next season.

How each team fared in the blood bath is up for debate, but here are my takes:

Oregon and Washington

Early in the morning of Friday, August 4th, there was some speculation that the Pac-12 might survive. USC and UCLA had announced their decision to leave 13 months earlier; CU its decision to move on announced a week earlier.

But there was still hope that the Pac-9 might make it. A meeting of the Presidents was conducted, with the Apple-Plus proposal of a streaming contract in the neighborhood of $20 million/year/team (plus escalator clauses!), together with signing a grant of rights, being discussed. The feeling was that Oregon was the linchpin. If the Ducks resisted the temptation to leave for the Big Ten, Washington would also stay home. That would give the Arizona schools and Utah reason enough to stay in the Pac-9, and look to expand the conference from there.

Instead, Oregon bolted, setting off a chain reaction which saw the Ducks and Huskies take off for their ultimate first choice, the Big Ten. The remaining Four corner schools, seeing no future in their old conference, applied for an were accepted into the Big 12.

A big day for Oregon and Washington? Yes, but not as big as it could have been. The Big Ten in 2022 signed a $7 billion/seven-year contract with Fox, CBS and NBC, with the payouts starting this fall. Over the span of the contract, each Big Ten team will average over $60 million per year.

Oregon and Washington, however, will receive far less. Sources told ESPN that both schools will receive approximately $30 million annually when they join the league, a share that will increase by $1 million during the current media contract with Fox, NBC and CBS, which runs through the 2029-30 athletic season. They then would be able to receive full shares.

Over the remaining six years of the contract, then, the likes of Northwestern and Rutgers will be receiving around $180 million more in media revenues than will Oregon and Washington. That may be a day’s pay for Phil Knight and Oregon, but the disparity in revenue could be a big hit for Washington (and it gets worse. One report estimated that the increase in travel expenses for Washington athletes will be about $10 million per year, cutting the media payout by a third).

And there is one other downside for these schools which can’t be ignored. The Ducks and the Huskies were primed to be the flagship programs of the new Pac-9, Pac-10 or Pac-12. With the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams in 2024, and the Pac-12 champion guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, one can certainly make the argument that the path to the Playoffs would have been much easier had Oregon kept the Pac-12 Conference in tact.


While the move of the Trojans and the Bruins to the Big Ten was announced over a year ago, USC and UCLA still had skin in the game when it came to the demise of the Pac-12. USC in particular was vocal about not wanting any other Pacific coast schools joining the Big Ten, but, as the Men of Troy are not yet members of the Big Ten, they didn’t have a vote.

There is certainly some upside in terms of travel in having Oregon and Washington in the Big Ten. USC and UCLA will be playing nine conference games in their new conference, and now three of those games will be on the west coast each season.

The thing is, USC was trying to get away from Oregon and Washington. In the old set up in the Pac-12, they only played the Ducks and Huskies in six out of every eight seasons … Now they will be playing these rivals every year.

Plus, Oregon and Washington were going to be largely cut off from the southern California recruiting market after USC and UCLA left the Pac-12. Sure, the Ducks and Huskies would still have recruited in L.A., and the possible addition of San Diego State to the Pac would have helped some, but not having road games in Los Angeles would have hurt. Now, the Ducks and Huskies will have a road game in southern California every season.

Sorry about that, Trojans.

Oregon State and Washington State

This is where proponents of having a promotion/relegation system for college football, as is run in the Premier League in English soccer, have to take a long look in the mirror.

The Beavers and Cougars, through no fault of their own, have been left homeless. Yes, Oregon State and Washington State will get their Pac-12 money for the 2023-24 fiscal year, and will get any number of revenge games to play this fall, but after that …

It looks bleak.

It’s possible that the Big Ten or the Big 12 might still reach out to these schools, but that seems unlikely. The schools, despite punching above their weight class more often than not, just don’t have the brand or the national following that it would make fiscal sense to add them to one of the Power Four conferences.

More likely, the Beavers and Cougars will be relegated to the Mountain West Conference – though the American Athletic Conference, which lost Cincinnati, Houston, and Central Florida, is reportedly interested in extending an offer as well. In either event, the media rights money will be significantly less than what these schools have become accustomed to receiving.  Instead of cashing checks north of $20 million per year, WSU and OSU will be lucky to get checks in the $5-$6 million range.

That’s a hard budget cut to take, especially when both schools have invested heavily in renovations, and Washington State in particular is in a financial bind.

And that’s off the field.

On the field, it could get ugly fast. Players, rightfully or wrongfully, all believe that they have NFL-caliber talent. It’s one thing to showcase your talent on national television against Oregon and USC, it’s another thing entirely to have your game against New Mexico played on a late Saturday afternoon on the CBS Sports Network, and before an audience of negligible size.

I fear that there will be mass defections from these rosters through the Transfer Portal come December, as players leave to find programs which will appreciate their Power Four talent.

What’s worse, these programs will likely lose coaches as well. Jonathan Smith has done an exceptional job at Oregon State, and Jake Dickert is holding his own at Washington State. With Oregon State and Washington State not being able to afford Power Four coaching salaries, these coaching staffs – including their head coaches – may be looking for a new team after this season

Stanford and Cal

The plight of the Cardinal and the Bears is similar to that of the Cougars and Beavers. They have been left homeless by their peers, and the 2024 season remains very much up in the air.

Cal, mired in debt and with an indifferent fan base, may have to join the Mountain West Conference to survive. Stanford, at least on paper, has the option of going independent. The Cardinal has an endowment of over $37 billion (more than the other 11 schools in the conference combined) and theoretically could try to be the new Notre Dame, crafting its own independent schedule.

Stanford does have contracts to play Notre Dame every season, and has TCU and Cal Poly on its non-conference schedule for 2024. Cal should be willing to continue with “The Game”, while Oregon State and Washington State may also be looking for non-conference games to fill out their schedules. Army, UConn and UMass are independent schools, and could be persuaded to rearrange their schedules to play the Cardinal.

But even if Stanford could cobble together 12 opponents for the 2024 season, the question remains: Who would televise the games? Notre Dame has been in bed with NBC for decades, and BYU, when it was playing as an independent, made side deals to get some of its games on ESPN. Would Stanford find a willing taker for its games?


So, unless Tiger Woods wants to shell out several hundred of his millions to create a new television network for his alma mater, Stanford’s best – and perhaps only – option will be to join a G5 conference.

Arizona and Arizona State

While the two schools share a common history, not to mention the same Board of Regents, the two programs have not been in lock step when it comes to realignment.

After Colorado left for the Big 12 on July 27th, the Wildcats appeared to be the next domino to fall. Arizona joining the Big 12 would have given the conference 14 teams, and that was what the Big 12 conference contracts with Fox and ESPN allowed for in terms of providing a full share ($31.66 million/year) to new Power Five additions to the league. The Big 12 was interested, and Arizona seemed receptive to the overtures.

Meanwhile Arizona State President Michael Crow remained steadfast in his desire to remain a member of the Pac-whatever. Crow was a longtime and ardent supporter of then Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, then as equally a staunch supporter of new Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff. It appeared for the longest time that Crow was going to stick with the Pac-12 no matter what, even if that meant going down with the ship. Even on Black Friday, Crow was trying to keep the conference together. “We were offered a media contract by the Apple corporation”, said of the Pac-12 media deal which had been presented. “It was a technological 23rd century Star Trek-thing with really unbelievable capability that ASU was very interested in.”

In the end, though, there was no way Arizona State could stay in a conference which had lost USC and UCLA, and was in the process of losing Oregon and Washington. The situation was untenable, and Crow relented. Now, ASU is following what it considers to be its little brother, Arizona, into the Big 12.

Arizona, for its part, has to be excited about the future of its programs, especially for its basketball programs. Instead of losing UCLA, Arizona is gaining games against March Madness stalwarts like Kansas, Baylor and Houston. Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has been clear about his desire to make the Big 12 the premier basketball conference, and the addition of Arizona is a feather in his cap.

One downside for the Arizona schools, though, will be the loss, at least in part, of its recruiting base in California. Both schools rely heavily on California recruits to supplement their rosters. Future non-conference games against USC, UCLA, and San Diego State – if they can be arranged – will help to mitigate that loss. Otherwise, the Arizona schools, like Utah and Colorado, will be trying to mine Texas high schools even more than before.


Other than the four orphan schools, no other team in the Pac-12 had a worse Black Friday than did Utah.

The Utes are the two-time defending champion of a conference which no longer exists, and absolutely did not want to leave. Utah won titles with USC on their schedule every year, and were poised to be in a conference with USC gone. Sure, Oregon and Washington would have remained as significant road blocks, but the path to the 12-team College Football Playoff was right there in front of the Utes. Keep doing what you are doing, and you will be a national player every year.

Now … not quite so easy.

True, there aren’t the perennial Top 25 teams like Oregon and Washington in the newly configured Big 12, but there are plenty of obstacles remaining. The Big 12 has become known for having a number of good, if not great, programs. The conference eats its own, and doesn’t produce undefeated champions. Instead of having two or three games deciding their season, Utah will now have six or seven potential road blocks to national success.

Oh, and don’t forget for a second that Utah and BYU are once again in the same conference.

Once paired in the Wacky WAC, the Utes and Cougars have a healthy dislike for one another. Don’t think for a moment that Utah fans didn’t relish being the champion of a Power Five conference, while BYU wandered the desert as an independent.

Now, the pair are not only going to be in the same conference, it’s a conference BYU is joining in 2023, with “junior” partner Utah joining in 2024.

The Cougar faithful are going to have a field day with this … and fans in every coffee shop, restaurant and store will make sure that the Ute fans are reminded which team joined the Big 12 first.


First and foremost, Black Friday was a big day for the University of Colorado … because it wasn’t a big day.

Having the foresight and good fortune jump to the Big 12 a week earlier, the Buffs could watch the implosion from the sidelines, not wondering whether they would be left standing when the music stopped.

The Buffs were blessed by geography and their long history with the Big 12, but, if AD Rick George hadn’t hired Deion Sanders, and given the program an infusion of optimism and national cache, the Buffs may have been another orphan going hat in hand to try and find a home in the Mountain West.

As it is, Colorado is joining a conference with familiar foes, and regaining a foothold in the Texas recruiting markets. Yes, the Buffs are joining a conference which doesn’t have as many AAU schools in it, but the Buffs will have the stability of being a full partner in a Power Four conference, with every opportunity to position themselves to be a member of the Big Two or Big Three conferences when the next round of realignment comes.

Might it have been better for CU, competition-wise, if the Big 12 had stopped at Arizona and a 14-team conference? Sure.

But the Buffs will have the chance to make their mark in their old conference with a clean slate, and be able to put the debacle which was their tenure in the Pac-12 behind them.

And, there is this benefit which I hadn’t foreseen amidst the chaos … Coach Prime will get a Year Zero.

Let me explain.

A “Year Zero” is a year often afforded a first year head coach, giving them a pass on the results of their first season. The idea being that you can’t turn the ship around in just one year, so you have to accept some poor results in the first year … and not really count the record.

For example, Matt Rhule will have a “Year Zero” at Nebraska. Sure, the Cornhusker faithful are looking for a bowl bid in Year One, a step up from the 4-8 record of last year, but they will be patient with Rhule. After all, Rhule went 2-10 in his first year at Temple, but was 10-4 in Year Three. At Baylor, Rhule went 1-11 in Year One, but went 11-3 in Year Three. Rhule is only 47-43 overall as a collegiate head coach, but he will get a pass in 2023.

Similarly, the two other new head coaches in the Pac-12 not named Deion Sanders will also be given a Year Zero by their fans. Kenny Dillingham at Arizona State is young but energetic, and, as an alumnus, will be given the benefit of the doubt in his first year at Tempe. At Stanford, Troy Taylor could pretty much go 1-11 and still get a pass, what with all of the uncertainty surrounding that program.

Coach Prime?

He’ll be given no benefits of the doubt by his critics, even though he took over a roster far worse than those left behind in Lincoln, Tempe and Palo Alto. The way Coach Sanders went about his business, completely gutting the roster, anything short of a winning record will be met with derision (even though Vegas has set the over/under on CU wins at 3.5).

Now, however, with the pending move to the Big 12, it’s almost as if the 2023 season is just a preamble of what’s to come. Sure, Buff fans will want to see victories, and sure, they will want to leave the Pac-12 without the bitter taste of being routed every weekend. But, with the move to the Big 12 in 2024, the 2023 season will be far less stressful (at least in my eyes). Regardless of what the final record is in 2023, the 2024 campaign will be a fresh start, with a whole new slate of conference opponents. The Buffs will be returning home, to a conference where they have enjoyed their greatest successes. Coach Prime will be afforded an offseason to again revamp the roster, and take on his new conference with clean slate.

Fall Camp is underway, and that would have been the main headlines this week, had it not been for the demise of the Pac-12 conference. In some sense, the demise has been coming since commissioner Larry Scott convinced the Pac-12 Presidents to go all in on a wholly owned Pac-12 Network. Or was it when the Pac-12 missed the opportunity – twice! – to raid the Big 12 for quality programs? Or was it when the conference leadership see that USC and UCLA were looking east for a better deal?

Doesn’t matter. What matters now is what each of the former members of the Pac-12 do for themselves going forward.

Thankfully, the University of Colorado landed on its feet … and has the potential for a bright future back in the Big 12.




12 Replies to “RIP Pac-12: Winners and Losers from the Pac-12’s Implosion”

  1. Colorado is a hand’s down winner. For the 1st time in forever, the Administration/AD were out in front of things, they hired a dynamic coach bettering their brand, and positioned themselves well as the just PAC crumbled. Finally, they had a Plan B throughout, and sensed the TV deal was not going to be good, so jumped for the Top-deal securing a full share.

  2. Yormark appears to have a long term plan for the XII ( XVI) which gives me hope that when the next round of contracts roll around in 2030, we should be in a strong position to stay in the ballpark of the B1G and the SEC. The PAC was dead conference walking for several years, we just didn’t know it.

  3. Oregon & UW owe CU a big thanks for getting into the B1G, same for the other three “four corners” schools that made it out of the PAC12 to the Big12. If CU hadn’t left a week earlier and opened the door for those two to go the B1G, everyone would have been stuck with that bullsh*t streaming deal… Including us fans!

    The B1G commissioner wanted to add UW & Oregon, but didn’t want the blood of the PAC12 on his hands and CU going to the Big12 opened that door for those two to go to the B1G. Half shares from the B1G are still more than the net after production costs the streaming services would have guarantied. And they are in one of the P2s conferences and will get full monies on the next round of alignment. You’re welcome UW & Oregon.

    All of this opened the door for the other four corners schools to go too, to go to a conference with better TV times on national TV and secure money, you’re welcome all… All that made it out to a secure conference.

  4. Whole thing is so sad. I haven’t spoken to one knowledgeable person who wanted this. Who likes this. Death of tradition. Rivalries. Victory to the pimps. Stanford will go Indy for football. Best athletic department in the country without a conference. Will figure out something for baseball, basketball, water polo etc. Prob WCC. Cal similar except I think they drop football. Go the UC Santa Barbara route. Can keep dignity that way but people will lose jobs. Oregon State? ( Great program). If it’s true Reser Stadium makes money they could spare the embarrassment of demotion but I doubt they do. I don’t know what they do. Wash St probably has to crawl to relegation and shame (although they shouldn’t feel shame, did nothing wrong). Unwillingly but debt too much. Really feel for them.

    1. Fret not, Jeff. In five or ten years all the original regional conferences will be back, basically, in a slightly different name. The sport will lose eyeballs without the little guy Cinderella stories, and more importantly, traveling swimming, baseball, softball, tennis and waterpolo across the country won’t be sustainable.

      This is all a temporary placeholder.

      Go Buffs

    2. Jeff, I agree that this whole thing may be sad, but this is the result of TV, the current college football landscape, and the PAC’s inability to be recently relevant in football and Men’s hoops. The PAC could not get a reasonable TV done plain and simple. In fleeing, you cannot blame teams for doing the best that they can in this current landscape, which just “is what it is.” If the PAC was a great college football crazy market, we would not be where we are. The 1/2 filled stadiums this season were embarrassing.

      In asking where it went wrong, you can go way back to establishing a P65, even back to the BCS or CFP–wherever strength of schedule was in play. Also, some teams reaching special media deals like Texas with the Longhorn Network, or Boise State with their special TV deal, and a few others was not good either.

      On its face, it looks like an unfortunate situation for OSU and WSU, however their fortunes could be better in the MWC or MWC/PAC merger, even if Cal and Stanford leave. They will not have to deal with bloated budgets necessary to just stay somewhat competitive in the PAC12 arms race. Their stadiums are smaller and better fits in the MWC. If both teams do well in football, OSU could find itself with a CFP bid in 2-5 years. WSU may be very competitive/good, pack their stadium game in and game out, and perhaps find a CFP bid too. If these teams drop a division, I think their PAC12 recruiting chops/contacts will remain in place. If so, they will be good.

      Stanford could do just fine as an independent. They way find a small TV deal out there and add Cardinal streaming network and will be fine until the next rounds of realignment. They have a good balance sheet.

      Loss of PAC’s long term tradition with many championships is one thing, however I think many rivalries mostly will stay in tact, teams may be in different conferences, but UW/WSU can OOC, as can UO/OSU. Tradition is great, but major college sports which make all the $$ is really what have you done for me lately? PAC’s last football NC USC 2004ish, last MBB championship Zona 1997? That is nearly 20+ years. PAC MBB 64 spots have been decreasing over the years. Wash went to the CFP in 2016, 24-7 game? PAC is heading on 7 years without a CFP appearance. This is not because of East Coast or Southern bias, rather it is because the PAC12 could not get a team through it’s regular season + championship game with less than 2 losses. With the expanded CFP, the PAC would have been fighting to get 2 teams in.

  5. Utah and BYU are once again in the same conference…. the schadenfreude alone brings joy to my heart. Going to love rooting for the Cougars every year in the Holy War 🙂

  6. I feel sorry for the Pac12, but a little disappointed in where we ended up. Big 12 is little brother to the rest of the conferences and the money shows that as well. Wondering why with the Prime chip in hand, we were relegated to history while USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington get $$$…the rich get richer I guess. The only consolation is we will have a somewhat (though not by much) easier path in the conference. Don’t think that makes up for the money or prestige.

    1. Truth be told, Prime hasn’t done anything (yet) on the field for CU. Rack up a couple of winning seasons and then let’s circle back on our prospects making it to the promised land.

      1. But everyone saying Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, UCLA, USC all are more storied and deserve better conferences have either forgotten history or at least recent struggles of Ok, Texas and ucla. The only program that has owned Colorado year in and year out is USC. Heck, we even have similar trajectory as Michigan barring the last 3-4 years. Everyone points to our p12 struggles and last season as why Colorado is undeserving of a traditional power conference while conveniently forgiving or forgetting the recent struggles of other “Prestige” programs. Essentially, why is it so popular to hate on Colorado.

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