Pac-12's Bungled Opportunities and Passive Leadership The Brink After Colorado's Departure to the Big 12 in 2024

Pac-12’s Bungled Opportunities and Passive Leadership: The Pac-12, once a formidable conference, now finds itself teetering on the brink of survival after Colorado decides to return to the Big 12. With multiple chances to solidify its membership and grow stronger, the Pac-12 leadership failed to seize the opportunities, leading to a downward spiral. We’ll focus on the latest Canadian NCAAF updates and examine the circumstances that led to the conference’s precarious state. Additionally, we’ll explore various strategies that could be implemented to ensure a more stable future for the league.

Missed Opportunities: The Rise of Colorado and the Pac-12’s Demise

Colorado’s Departure: The CU Board of Regents unanimously approved a resolution for Colorado’s return to the Big 12, a conference the Buffaloes helped found in 1996 after spending 13 seasons in the Pac-12. The move was driven by several factors, including their deep knowledge of the Big 12, history with the conference for over six decades, and a boost in popularity following the hiring of NFL star Deion Sanders as the new football coach.

The implications of Colorado’s departure from the Pac-12 must be considered. While the Buffaloes have had varying degrees of success on the field in recent years, their history, affiliation with the Big 12, and the surge in popularity brought about by the high-profile coaching hire made them an attractive addition to the conference they once called home.

Pac-12’s Fateful Decisions: The Pac-12 had its chances to raid the Big 12 twice. In 2010, then-commissioner Larry Scott’s bold move to poach half of the Big 12’s teams fell short, and in 2021, when Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure for the SEC, another opportunity to strengthen the Pac-12’s position was wasted. As a result, the Big 12 retooled and emerged more robust, while the Pac-12 lost ground.

One cannot help but question the leadership’s passive approach to expansion and conference realignment. The league likely had its pick of Big 12 schools on both occasions, but instead, they stood pat, expecting the status quo to remain unchanged. Such passive decision-making has left the Pac-12 scrambling to find ways to stay competitive.

Prestige and Power Shifts: The Pac-12 experienced a loss of reputation with the departure of USC and UCLA, two of the conference’s flagship programs. Losing these schools meant relinquishing significant media markets, with Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest market, no longer represented in the Pac-12.

Additionally, the Pac-12 went from boasting four schools with national football championships to just one, Washington. In contrast, the Big 12, including Colorado, now has three schools that have won a national title in football (BYU, Colorado, TCU).

The departure of USC and UCLA also highlights the ongoing power shifts in college football, with the SEC and Big Ten emerging as the dominant conferences. While the Big 12 and ACC are fighting to become part of the “Significant Three,” the Pac-12 faces the challenge of remaining relevant in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Survival Matters: The Pac-12’s Diminishing Value

Media Rights Deal Woes: Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff’s early inability to secure a media rights deal indicated the conference’s diminishing value. Rumors suggest the Pac-12 once sought an astronomical $500 million annually, equivalent to the Big Ten’s contract, despite losing its biggest West Coast brands.

While media rights deals are essential for generating revenue, they also play a crucial role in maintaining the conference’s visibility and relevance. Unfortunately, the Pac-12’s delayed negotiations and lofty demands allowed the Big 12 to seize the initiative and secure extensions with Fox and ESPN before the Pac-12 could act.

Linear TV and Streaming Struggles: The need for more visibility on linear TV and reliance on streaming platforms pose challenges for the Pac-12. While streaming services like Apple have been in talks to broadcast Pac-12 games, they are hesitant to strike a deal, indicating that the conference’s negotiating advantage is slipping away.

Linear TV still accounts for a significant portion of sports viewership, making it crucial for the Pac-12 to secure lucrative deals with traditional broadcasting partners. The uncertainty surrounding streaming platforms and their financial viability further complicates matters for the conference.

Colorado’s Safe Bet: Trading Uncertainty for Stability

Colorado’s Irony: Colorado’s decision to leave the Big 12 in 2011 due to perceived instability came full circle when they sought security in their old conference after 12 years. Their move to the Big 12 allows them a total share of media rights revenue and the familiarity of their former home.

The Buffaloes’ decision to return to the Big 12 reflects a desire for stability and the opportunity to rekindle old rivalries. While the Pac-12 has undoubtedly offered benefits, such as academic engagement with Silicon Valley, the allure of a familiar conference with a potentially more lucrative media rights deal proved too enticing for Colorado.

The Future of the Pac-12: Steps Towards Survival

Securing Key Programs: To ensure its survival, the Pac-12 must focus on keeping programs like Oregon and Washington content within the conference. Considering weighted shares of media rights revenue for these programs may help retain their loyalty.

Media Rights Deal: The Pac-12 must act swiftly and decisively to secure a media rights deal with potential partners like Apple and Fox. Delaying negotiations could further erode its bargaining position.

Expansion and Realignment: Adding new schools like UConn could bolster the Pac-12’s standing. However, any development should be carefully considered to ensure the long-term stability and competitiveness of the conference.
The Pac-12’s passive leadership and missed opportunities have pushed the conference to the brink. With Colorado’s departure to the Big 12, the Pac-12 faces a critical juncture. To secure its future, the panel must prioritize stability, swift decision-making, and ensuring essential programs while adapting to the changing landscape of media rights and streaming platforms. Survival matters more than ever for the Pac-12, and its ability to adapt and innovate will determine its fate in the ever-evolving world of college sports.