This move almost guarantees the PAC-12’s collapse as a major conference
There was a time when conferences seemed to leave each other alone and just operate as independent galaxies in the NCAA universe. However, with the increasing competition for the billions of dollars that are now on the table from media partners, conferences are engaged in a real-life cut-throat drama that often feels more like a season of “Game of Thrones” or “House of Cards” with each league maneuvering in a way that’s going to try to undercut the other leagues and stabilize its own future with no regard for the rest of the leagues in the nation.
That’s something that former Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby didn’t seem to grasp as his short-sightedness and lack of aggression nearly led to the league’s demise. Fortunately, his replacement, Brett Yormark, is not shy about making waves, and adding the Buffs is his boldest stroke to date.
What this move does is take an important university away from the PAC-12, leaving that conference with only nine members signed up for 2024-25 with USC and UCLA headed to the Big 10 next summer. Now, panic has set in among the remaining PAC-12 institutions and the moment another one jumps ship (which seems inevitable at this point), the entire league could crumble.
At best, the PAC-12 is going to have to scramble to survive by adding lower-tier schools (at least in terms of media markets, athletic prestige, and fan interest) such as SMU, Fresno State, Nevada, or San Diego State. Should the Big 12’s coup pay off in its grandest fashion resulting in three more PAC-12 defections, Yormark will have essentially killed one of the Power 5 conferences thus meaning that when the Big 12 (and the S.E.C., Big 10, and A.C.C.) head to the bargaining table with media partners, there will be less competition for slices of the pie.
Ultimately, since 2010, it has felt like the Big 12 and PAC-12 would ultimately square off in a fight for survival, one that would be played out not on the field or court but in boardrooms. That’s come to fruition in 2023 and it appears that the Big 12 has landed a nearly fatal blow in that battle by bringing Colorado back into the fray.