Big 12 in deep discussions to add up to six Pac-12 teams after USC, UCLA defect to Big Ten

The Big 12 is in deep discussions to add multiple Pac-12 programs as a way to bolster its membership after USC and UCLA move to the Big Ten, sources tell CBS Sports. At least four teams are being considered with the potential for the Big 12 to add more as the realignment continues to shake out.

Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah have been mentioned specifically as teams that are targeting the Big 12, sources told CBS Sports. There is also consideration of adding Oregon and Washington to make the Big 12 an 18-team league, the largest in the FBS.

A merger of the Big 12 and Pac-12 in some form is also possible.

“Everything is on the table,” a Big 12 source said.

“There’s no question” the Big 12 needs to be aggressive in expansion, another conference source said.

One industry source suggested that the Big 12 quickly expand with Pac-12 teams, then go to market early with rights holders to outpace the Pac-12. The Pac-12’s deal with Fox and ESPN expires in 2024. The Big 12’s deal with the same networks expires in 2025.

“All of those things have been talked about,” a Big 12 source said.

Adding at least those four schools would expand the Big 12 further into the Mountain Time Zone, creating “travel partners” for new BYU members while also adding a rival for the Cougars in the Utes. Arizona schools are two hours away and feature Phoenix as a major market acquisition for the conference.

What the Big 12 can’t afford, according to multiple industry sources, is to stand still. There’s still the lingering question of who even has the say in adding teams between the Pac-12 and the Big 12.

One industry source gave what was called a slight advantage to the Big 12 to be able to grab teams from the other conference.

The difference in the value of earnings between the Big 12 and the Pac-12 will be “negligible” after this round of realignment, but expansion will at least strengthen the Big 12 while undercutting the Pac-12.

Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah carry an average annual value (AAV) that at least matches the 12 members of the Big 12 that will remain in the league after Texas and Oklahoma leave in 2025.

That’s one reason the Big 12 expansion could work in this case, as the conference wouldn’t aim to cut its share of media rights. It is not yet known if the addition of Oregon and Washington is viewed the same way by the Big 12.

Of course, all of this assumes that Fox, ESPN’s one-half partner in both conferences, is even interested in striking a deal with one or both of the rebuilt leagues. If not, ESPN could become the primary rights holder if there is interest.

There is a relationship that needs to be mended with the Big 12 after outgoing commissioner Bob Bowlsby accused last summer of a conspiracy involving ESPN, the SEC and the American. The new commissioner, Brett Yormark, takes office on August 1.

The Pac-12’s projected AAV dropped significantly from $500 million per year (roughly $42 million per school) to $300 million ($30 million) for the remaining 10 teams after the league lost USC and UCLA, according to San Jose Mercury News.

Navigate, a sports and entertainment consulting group, said in March that members of the 12 Big 12 teams will earn $52 million by 2029. Others in the industry dispute that figure.

Notre Dame’s “preference” is to remain independent, according to Sports Illustrated. Being able to make $80 million to $100 million in the Big Ten could affect that position, but Notre Dame has left money on the table before — for decades, in fact.

The Fighting Irish have historically valued their planning independence and unique marketing power. If Notre Dame remains independent, the focus is clearly on the Big 12 and Pac-12 in realignment.

The consolidation of money and power at the top among the 32 programs in the SEC and Big Ten has sent shockwaves through college athletics.

What will a playoff look like in 2026, when a unanimous vote is no longer required to approve an updated structure? Will there even be a playoff?

It is imperative that the 98 schools below the SEC and Big Ten try to get as close as possible to the superconferences. ACC is locked into its deal until 2036, assuming no defectors.

For the Big 12, having the flexibility to increase their bottom line, media markets and branding are compelling enough reasons to consider expansion.

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