NCAA conference realignment became news across media in multiple conflicting sources. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports and writers for The Athletic shared differing reports on where PAC-12 media rights stand with ESPN. Dennis Dodd was reporting that ESPN is out of the negotiations for PAC-12 media rights, due to having the SEC, ACC, and Big-12 media rights already agreed to. The Athletic is disputing this saying that ESPN is still in the mix for media rights. The conflicting reports have flared between fan bases on both sides.
Media Rights Uncertainty Causing Realignment
This affects conference realignment in other conferences picking off the PAC-12 schools. The PAC-12 is currently, in addition to focusing on a television deal, dealing with daily reports of schools within the league not happy with the negotiations on the current tv deal. There are two camps regarding the media negotiations. The first says that the PAC-12 will beat the Big-12 media rights by approximately $31.7 million per school per year.
With this deal, a once brittle conference on the brink of collapse has seen stability and even expanded its reach further than the traditional United States. The conference will be hosting games in Mexico for basketball, football with other sports, possible to follow. They will also be hosting a pro day for the whole conference in Frisco, TX in 2024, instead of the usual on-campus pro days that each school normally holds for its aspiring future NFL players.
Conference Realignment and The Four-Corners
The other side of the television media speculation is that the PAC-12 will not receive an offer the size of the Big-12’s. Right now, the last reporting is the PAC-12 has had the likes of ION Television, the CW, Amazon, Apple TV, and NBC Universal, plus the on-and-off negotiations with ESPN. The PAC-12 as of today will have something that the other Power 5 conferences covet. The late-night time slot. Being able to play games at 10 pm or 10:30 pm or even 11 pm Eastern time is exclusive to the PAC-12 and Mountain West conferences.
The Big Ten has already found inventory for this time slot by expanding with USC and UCLA to the conference starting in the 2024-25 athletic calendar. This has weakened the PAC-12 and caused uncertainty within the conference. The Big-12 has its sights on Arizona, Arizona St., Utah, and Colorado, referred to as “the four corner schools.” If they can even get some, if not all these schools to jump the PAC-12 Conference would be reeling and possibly collapse.
The Big-10 Conference has quieted rumors of offering membership to Washington, Oregon, California, and Stanford. There are differing opinions among each school within the conference regarding what a media deal should look like, which is also possibly causing tension and dissension among the members. Questions arise as to whether the package should be all streaming, some streaming, and some traditional tv, or exclusively tv.
The problem is the balancing act of what is available and at what price. As the days and weeks pass more reports come out that different plays in media rights are pulling out of negotiations or not offering what the conference is looking for financially. If the financial terms of a deal fall short of the expectations of any of the schools, it could rock the foundation of the conference
Conference Realignment Is Affecting The Mountain West And Big Sky
With these negotiations ongoing it is assumed that once complete the Pac-12 will follow with the expansion of at least two schools, probably San Diego St., and Southern Methodist previously reported. So that would cause both the Mountain West and American Athletic Conference to look for replacements for those schools. The Mountain West has been remarkably stable recently with the last change being in 2013-14 with the additions of San Jose St., and Utah St.
The conference may want to wait and not add any additional schools if it loses only San Diego St. If the conference loses more members, which could be, UNLV, Fresno St., and even Colorado St. the conference would have to be proactive in looking for replacements. These replacements could come from the likes of schools from the Big Sky Conference or Big West or Western Athletic conferences that share the footprint with the Mountain West Conference.
The Big Sky could provide Montana or Montana St., Idaho, and North Dakota St., which are current powerhouses in the Championship subdivision of football. If the Mountain West decided to look at the Western Athletic for members, it would further hamper the Western Athletic bid to have a future FBS conference.
NCAA Conference Realignment And Effect On Other Conferences
The American Athletic Conference would also have to decide if it wanted to replace Southern Methodist, going along with the new additions they have already added of Alabama-Birmingham, Florida Atlantic, North Carolina-Charlotte, North Texas, Rice, and Texas-San Antonio. A replacement could come from Conference USA or the Sun Belt Conferences. Such moves could also send Conference USA to further plunge into the depths of uncertainty, as they have already had to replace the six schools moving to the American Athletic Conference. They are doing this with former members of the Western Athletic Conference and ASUN Conference. Could they further disrupt those conferences with other additions is anyone’s guess.
The only constant to conference realignment is that it is ever-changing. These moves are assured to not be the only ones that occur because of a PAC-12 conference media deal. The trickle-down effect could even leak into the lower divisions of the NCAA with schools looking to move their respective athletic programs to a higher level of competition. As this occurs, we will continue to follow it and focus on the ramifications of conference realignment throughout college athletics.
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