I have a two-part strategy for saving the PAC that some of you may like and others may hate. It’s written like it is going to the PAC for consideration. I’m just looking for input…
Part 1 is an unannounced agreement among these schools to form the core of a PAC 8-9-10:
San Diego State
Part 2 is to attempt to convince the 4-corner (4-C) members to reverse course and to stay in the conference:
I believe that the PAC 2 should take a run at recapturing the 4-C members because, if the money is sufficient (and I believe it would be), there are several reasons that it would make sense for them to return.
- From everything I read, the 4-C members didn’t really want to leave the PAC 12. When the PAC looked like it was imploding, everybody ran for a life raft – and that’s all the Big 12 ever was to these schools; a life raft, not a goal. As of now, they have no loyalty to the Big 12 – and they do still have considerable loyalty to the PAC.
From an article in this week’s “The Athletic”, “(Arizona President) Robbins absolutely loved the Conference of Champions. It’s heartbreaking to him to think about this iconic league, with more than 100 years of history, possibly going away…” He’s not the only President to have made such comments. The 4-Cs didn’t want to leave and, if you can find a stable and economically feasible alternative to leaving, I believe that they would consider calling the whole thing off.
- As I understand it, the 4-Cs have yet to formally leave the PAC – and I don’t see how they can until the lawsuit is resolved – which means to me that they have not formally joined the Big 12. As such, they are not yet subject to exit fees or grants of rights problems if they change their minds and stay in the PAC.
Colorado has apparently signed an agreement to join the Big 12 and, as part of that agreement, they have received a $2.5 million signing bonus. Utah is reportedly working on a similar agreement – but it is not finalized and there is no word on what the Arizona schools have done or may yet do.
I’m hoping that the agreement does not bind the 4-Cs to the Big 12 so strongly that it is cost-prohibitive to remain in the PAC. If it is not, if there are no prohibitive financial or other penalties or restrictions tied to it staying in the PAC, then I don’t believe that the signing bonus would be a significant impediment.
The coming 12 school college football payout is (for now at least) paid per conference and then the money is divvied up among the conference members. As it stands today, there is no adjustment made for conference size. If that doesn’t change, then the payout for the 4-Cs, as members of this PAC 8 or PAC 9, would be roughly double the per school payout of a 16 or 18 member Big 12. It sounds like adjustments will likely be made but unless they go to strict adjustment based on membership size , staying in the PAC could be worth several million dollars a year each to the 4-C members – especially come 2026, when the contracted payouts are expected to skyrocket.
Further, while I have no idea what the amount is, I understand that the PAC’s net assets are significant. If the 4-Cs leave, they lose those assets to the PAC 2 members. But if the 4-Cs change their minds and stay in the PAC, then they would share in those assets – to the extent that they are shared rather than spent on conference operations. (Perhaps there are funds there that could be used to pay back any “signing bonuses” described above.)
It was important to the 4-Cs to maintain a presence in the Pacific Time Zone and particularly in the state of California. They wanted to maintain a connection to their alumni bases, both athletically and academically. And they wanted to maximize their recruiting opportunities and television presence. So far at least, the Big 12 has failed to expand into the region.
It’s early, but this PAC 8-9-10 may be a stronger football conference than the Big 12. Ignoring the 4-C teams for a moment, of the five proposed “core” schools in the PAC, three are ranked in the top 25. And of the 12 continuing schools in the Big 12, not one of them is ranked in the top 25. The Big 12 also has some bad losses, including two to the Sun Belt Conference. But even if the Big 12 is stronger than the PAC 8-9-10 at the moment, the three MWC schools are doing it with G-5 money and exposure and have considerable upside.
And then there is travel. As Big 12 members, the 4-Cs will incur considerably greater travel time and expense and, more importantly, it WILL impact both academic performance and athletic performance. It is much easier traveling north-south with only one-time zone change than it is traveling east-west across two or three time zones. And members of non-revenue sport teams at some schools have already objected publicly to the new travel demands: “That isn’t what we signed up for.”
A western regional alternative to the Big 12 / Big 10 would aid in recruiting for all sports. Most parents, and many students, realize that the chances of going pro are limited and that a degree is more valuable than playing (or worse, not playing) on the biggest stage. A regional conference furthers academic performance and, if you are a star, the NFL will find you no matter where you are.
- Not insignificantly, instead of being partly responsible for the demise of the 100+ year old PAC 12, the returning 4-C members would be able to claim much of the credit for saving it.
The big question, of course, is money. Playoff money is unclear but would probably be materially better in the PAC. Television rights and television money are above my pay grade. I don’t know what limitations ESPN and Fox are operating under and I know little about streaming.
Going forward, ESPN has very little presence in the Pacific Time Zone. Stanford, who just lost to Sacramento State, and Cal are not attractive TV draws in the west – especially when playing a largely east coast, ACC schedule. Further, if the 4-Cs were to stay in the PAC, ESPN would lose their only Mountain Time Zone product as well and would be left with almost no college football in the Western US. I can’t imagine ESPN not being a very interested bidder for the broadcast rights of the only western power conference. I just don’t see them writing off 80 million people; 25% of the nation’s population.
I am less certain of Fox’s interest in broadcasting the new PAC 8-9-10. They have the four PAC/B1G members and part of the MWC package – but you’d be taking their top three MWC members. If the 4-Cs stayed in the PAC, Fox’s entire western product would consist of the 4 B1G members and the generally small market remainders of the MWC. I can’t imagine Fox allowing themselves to be so weakly positioned without a fight.
The negotiating landscape has changed considerably from even just a month ago. It is entirely possible that you could have two linear bidders and a whole new negotiating ballgame. That would tend to drive the contract value up above recently rumored numbers. While I don’t have the expertise to quantify what a TV deal would fetch for this new PAC 8-9-10, based on what I’ve read over the past year plus, in this market, this just “feels like” a $25+ million per school conference. That valuation, along with the additional playoff money and with the other advantages named above, may be sufficient to recapture your 4-C members.
I understand that you are talking with the MWC about a promotion/relegation relationship. That’s creative but it’s also an admission of defeat, and it is no guarantee of power conference status. I hope that you will make a run at retaining your 4-C members before making the MWC deal. This new PAC 8-9-10 would make for a much stronger conference than would any relationship which included the mid-to-lower level MWC members. Eventually, if not immediately, it would make a stronger football conference than the Big 12 and most importantly, not only would the PAC survive, it would survive as a top-level conference.
One last thought… If you recaptured your 4-C members, you wouldn’t need to win the lawsuit against the departing PAC schools. You’d have the votes needed to prevent the departing members from gutting the conference and liquidating the assets.
I have this visual image of the Big 12’s presidents, smugly sitting around, patting each other on the back for having taken the PAC 12’s kill shot. But they left the door open and I think that they are vulnerable to a surprise counter attack. With headlines out there like “How Brett Yormark Took Down the Pac 12”, wouldn’t you like to be a fly in the wall when you announce the return of the 4-Cs?
As the line goes, “You come at the king, you best not miss.” When the Big 12 left out the west coast, and especially California, they missed and they missed badly. Hopefully you can make them pay for it. Best of luck to you.
Thank you for your consideration and, if you think this missive has merit, for making certain that it gets into the proper hands.