The Pac-12 will not pursue expansion “at this time,” the conference said Thursday, ending speculation about whether the 12-team league might try to add any of the eight schools that will remain in the Big 12 following the eventual departures of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC.
The unanimous decision came just days after the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC announced an alliance that ultimately aims to “stabilize a volatile environment” throughout college athletics by collaborating on weighty issues facing the industry and agreeing to create a future scheduling partnership.
The Pac-12’s decision is a boost to the Big 12’s chances of adding teams and remaining a viable conference, but the reality remains that the Big 12 will have to add schools from the Group of 5 conferences in order to become whole again after Texas and OU leave.
“Stability was important to us,” Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff told ESPN on Thursday. “We think that instability and vibration across college athletics is not good for the industry. It’s why, No. 1, we came to the conclusion that we came to, and No. 2, why we did it so quickly.
“Remember, it’s only about five weeks ago that the Texas and Oklahoma news broke. We worked quickly because we thought stability was important. We thought this announcement, along with the acknowledgement [Tuesday] from both Jim [Phillips] and Kevin [Warren] that they are happy with where they are in their current membership adds stability back into the system.”
Sources in the Pac-12 told ESPN that the conference had an expansion working group that included athletic directors and presidents and chancellors who explored criteria and benefits for a full membership, along with possibly adding schools in just football and men’s and women’s basketball.
While that group recognized an opportunity to expand the geographic footprint into new markets, recruit players in their own territory, and get exposure for the schools in new time zones — all while considering television rights — sources told ESPN that there was a consensus that none of it added up to what was better than just accomplished with the alliance.
The hope within the Pac-12 is that the partnership with the ACC and Big Ten will allow the league to play across different time zones and form new rivalries — all without having to split the revenue beyond the current 12 teams.
“We looked at each other among the 12 and recommitted to what we’re doing, and we’re really happy where we are,” Kliavkoff said, “and we think we can thrive.”
Kliavkoff said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey explained to him how Oklahoma and Texas approached the SEC about becoming members.
“Greg has stated how this happened and I believe him,” Kliavkoff said. “I agree with his statement that if Texas and Oklahoma would have called one of the other Power 5 conferences, we would have taken the call and acted the same way he did.”
The Pac-12’s decision is aimed at stabilizing realignment, but the future of the Big 12 remains a question.
If the Big 12 is able to lure in valuable programs — most likely from the American Athletic Conference — and remain a Power 5 entity, the overall landscape would remain relatively stable.
If the AAC is able to hold the upper hand, though, and lure Big 12 schools to make a case to become a Power 5 league, it could create another tremor that might cause the Pac-12 to rethink its position.
For now, the main goal is stability.
“The quicker the stability, the better,” Kliavkoff said.