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Rumors are swirling that the Big Ten wants to expand the conference. As of now, the Big Ten has 16 schools – with USC and UCLA joining next year. However, with all the issues going on with the PAC 12, the Big Ten sees an opportunity for additional growth. 


As of this writing, we are less than 1 year away from the PAC 12’s Grant of Rights’ (“GOR”) Deal expiring. This is dangerous territory because GOR deals are typically negotiated and completed 2-3 years in advance of implementation. As I wrote last month, the schools within the PAC 12 have different agendas. So it’s no surprise that we are still here waiting on a new GOR Deal.

Now, with the rumors of the Big Ten considering additional expansion, this is going to make GOR negotiations more difficult for the PAC 12. It’s no secret that if each school had their way, they’d all be in the Big Ten. But with that said, there are at least 4 schools in the PAC 12 that should peak the Big Ten’s interest. (Oregon, Washington, Cal, Stanford). 

If these schools know that the Big Ten wants them now, why would they sign a new GOR with the PAC 12? These schools and conferences have to be using back channels to figure out what their future holds if the PAC 12 fails. 

Why Expand Now Big Ten?

What does the Big Ten have to gain from this? Easy. The Big Ten’s new GOR Deal that starts next year does not include a TV Deal with ESPN. ESPN currently holds the PAC 12 broadcasting rights in the 10 PM EST window. If the Big Ten expands, they can negotiate an additional window for their games to be broadcasted. Which means more money for the conference and current Big Ten Schools. 

The only hold up, as of now, is that the Big Ten does not want to be the culprit that dismantles the PAC 12. At least, not publicly. Therefore, they will wait for other PAC 12 schools to make their move before pouncing. 

Big 12 Involvement

What this means, in all likelihood, is we are waiting on Colorado and Arizona to jump to the Big 12. It has been rumored for the past 1-2 months that both schools are close to leaving. Utah and Arizona State may be potential candidates for the Big 12, but the rumors about those schools have subsided. 

If this is the case, Colorado and Arizona first need to vet whether or not the Big 10 has any interest in adding them to the conference. It would be irresponsible for them to jump to the Big 12 without first vetting the interest of the Big 10. They need to know their chances of landing in the Big 10 are 0% before locking in with the Big 12.

Assuming that is the case, why would they stay in the PAC 12? The Big 12 is offering more money in its GOR Deal (roughly $31M/year) as well as long term stability (7-8 years).

All bets are off if this happens. No reason for the schools in the PAC 12 to think about expansion at 8 schools. This’ll be the move the Big Ten needs to pull the trigger on their expansion. Unfortunately for Utah, Arizona State (“ASU”), Washington State (“WSU”), and Oregon State (“OSU”), this means joining the Mountain West.

Is there another way this goes?

One other thing to consider is that the Big Ten may actually have interest in Colorado and/or Arizona. In fact, I could see them adding up to 7 schools in a major expansion. The schools would be Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Cal, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. Why? Because each school occupies their own market. Cal and Stanford are in the Greater San Francisco market. That market is big enough for two schools.

Another reason is these schools are solid culture fits and possess strong academic credentials. All 7 schools have the esteemed AAU accreditation that the Big Ten has historically coveted. You would have a renewed rivalry between Nebraska and Colorado. Which was lost when both schools left the Big 12 ten years ago.

However, I struggle with this scenario because I don’t think the Big 10 needs 7 schools to secure a deal with ESPN’s 10 PM EST window. They could probably get by with 4 schools (Oregon, Washington, Cal, and Stanford). Additionally, there are schools within the ACC that the Big Ten would covet. The wait to add schools from the ACC would be longer. But they probably add more value with bigger markets and entering SEC territory.

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