The Pac-12 announced Thursday that it won’t pursue membership expansion after a multiweek review left the conference believing 12 is the right number, for now.
In a statement confirming the decision to stand down in the realignment game, it did not rule out the possibility of adding schools in the future:
“Following consultation with our presidents, chancellors and athletic directors, the Pac-12 Conference has made the decision to not pursue expansion of our membership at this time. This decision was made after extensive internal discussion and analysis, and is based on the current competitive strength and cohesiveness of our 12 universities. It is also grounded in our confidence in our ability as a conference to best support our student-athletes and to grow and thrive both academically and athletically.”
There was no expansion in the air until the middle of July, when news broke that Texas and Oklahoma were jumping from the Big 12 into the SEC.
That prompted the Pac-12 to create an expansion working group consisting of athletic directors and university presidents representing each of the six travel partners.
Commissioner George Kliavkoff, who had been on the job for three weeks, fielded what he termed “significant inbound interest” from schools (presumably in the Big 12) seeking refuge in the Pac-12.
Weeks of evaluation left the Pac-12 convinced there were no candidates that would fit institutionally and add media rights value to the existing members.
Instead, the conference joined the Big Ten and ACC in forming an alliance designed to provide stability to the landscape (the stated goal) and counter the growing influence of the SEC (unstated).
During the process of crafting the alliance, Kliavkoff came to believe nonconference scheduling partnerships with the ACC and Big Ten could help the Pac-12 generate additional media value, reducing the need to expand membership.
The Pac-12 is examining strategic options in advance of the momentous media rights negotiations, which are expected to begin in approximately 18 months and will herald a new contract cycle in the 2024-25 academic year.
One of those options could be another look at expansion.
Meanwhile, a strategic advisory board of athletic directors and coaches is working with the conference office on a variety of issues, including:
— Whether to drop to eight conference games.
— If the division format should be continued or eliminated.
— How to tweak the conference schedule to give teams the best chance for success.
“The timeline is to have a first set of working recommendations by the end of the football season,” Kliavkoff said recently.
“Once we have recommendations, then some of them, I’m sure, we could do immediately.”