In a news cycle that’s been largely kept secret and few people have discussed publicly, conference realignment is happening again. Among the thousand or scenarios that have be thrown around regarding the future of the Big 12 and the remaining eight schools in the conference, a Big 12/Pac 12 merger seemed like an option for a way to save both struggling conferences at the same time.
Well, Max Olson of The Athletic reports that talks to make that happen are underway.
Sources: Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is meeting with Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff today to discuss the possibility of a scheduling alliance, merger or other options for their conferences to strategically work together.⁰ https://t.co/i3MFeMj9Ua— Max Olson (@max_olson) August 3, 2021
Arguably, this could be the second-best option for Iowa State outside of a move to the Big Ten. A scheduling alliance is interesting and allows the Big 12 schools to retain Big 12 branding, but I can’t imagine that would be too much of a sticking point as long as the TV money makes sense.
A full merger might be the best path forward though if you truly want to create a league with staying power through whatever superconference bullshit is about to go down. Sure, it wouldn’t be held in the same regard as the SEC or the Big Ten, but it would at least be on par with the ACC or better, and would be somewhat protected by geography from being poached by any of the other conferences. The Big Ten and SEC can’t just simply poach USC, Oregon, Washington, or Stanford and call it a day.
In the case of a merger, how the conference is laid out will be interesting to watch. You could do two ten-team divisions which would essentially be the Big 12 plus Colorado and Utah in the east, and the rest of the former Pac-12 in the west. You could also break it down into pods of four or five teams and rotate scheduling the way NFL does with its divisions.
It’s virtually impossible right now to project what the TV/streaming situation looks like for this conference, given that ESPN seems hellbent on manipulating market values through public perception and we could have entirely new entities like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix getting involved. It’s extremely important to note that most of the tech companies are owned or heavily influenced by people with Pac-12 ties, and while the Mouse has money, they don’t have Amazon money.
Hell, this whole thing could even just be a coordinated leak designed to start a bidding war for this merger or scheduling alliance.
It’s also difficult to say how quickly this moves. We could be hearing some more confirmed details throughout the week, or we might not hear anything concrete for months. Either way, this is an encouraging development for the remaining eight schools in the Big 12.