Less than a year after Texas and Oklahoma shocked the college athletics world by announcing they were bolting for the SEC, USC and UCLA announced that they were heading to the Big 10.
It’s a move that not only moves us much closer to power conferences but it also puts the PAC-12 at serious risk of extinction. The conference is basically being held together by Oregon and Washington, but there is no telling whether or not they will actually sit around and wait for this ship to sink fully.
The most concrete report we have seen is that Arizona State, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah are in talks with the Big 12. After the conference’s media days, incoming commissioner Brett Yormark says the conference is open for business and will be at the forefront of conference realignment. So if those four teams find a new home, it will completely crumble the PAC-12.
Oregon cannot sit around and wait for a conference to approach them but should be proactive in getting on the horn. Thankfully, the Ducks have a motivated booster group and are competitive as can be.
Reports from CBS Sports say that Phil Knight has been working the phones and trying to find a new home for the Ducks. That source referred to the university as desperate.
CBS says that teams in the ACC may even be in more trouble and may have to pay a $500 million exit fee from the conference thanks to ironclad television litigation.
But this article isn’t about the ACC; it’s about Oregon and what their next move needs to be.
In my opinion, one thing is clear: the PAC-12 is not the answer moving forward. Even if they look to add schools as the Big 12 did with Houston, UFC, BYU, and Cincinnati, there aren’t enough power schools left.
Sure, maybe the PAC-12 looks to add the likes of Boise State, Fresno State, Colorado State, and San Diego State University, but is that really enough to push the needle? I don’t think so. After that, maybe the PAC-12 looks to poach from the Big 12? Big pass.
Those schools could have jumped off the ship last year when UT and OU left, but they stayed strong and now look like a power player in conference realignment. If I were a school like Oklahoma State, Baylor, or Kansas, I am either staying put or looking for a road to the Big 10.
That truly leaves just one option for the Ducks, and it’s leaving the former conference of champions. But there is already a significant snag there. Jon Wilner, who broke the USC and UCLA news, is already reporting that Oregon might be out of luck.
“I’d be stunned if Washington and Oregon go to the Big Ten. The Big Ten will sit back for two years, then try to get Notre Dame” Growing reality is the Ducks and Huskies have to 1) make it work in the #Pac12 or 2) join the Big 12. My guess: 1) is their preference.”
Phew, that’s not great. As I’ve already mentioned, waiting around on the sinking ship isn’t a great option. If we have learned anything from this past year, teams are talking behind closed doors, and being proactive rather than reactive in all of this conference realignment is best.
The biggest domino that will fall next is Notre Dame. It is the biggest power in college athletics that isn’t aligned with a conference, and it sounds like most want Notre Dame over Oregon or Washington. ESPN’s Pete Thamel broke it down.
“Notre Dame is obviously the prettiest date on the dance floor, but they probably have two years until they have to make any decision because their TV deal has four years left, and they need to see what happens with the College Football Playoff and that also has four years left. So there’s no imminent rush for Notre Dame because the levers that they need to pull to move conferences aren’t going to be pulled in the near term.”
So maybe there is a two-year wait here, but it doesn’t need to be like that for Oregon.
Moving to the Big 12 and following a few other schools is their best bet. They can keep travel limited by staying with schools like Colorado, Utah, and the two Arizona schools. They will be joining a conference that has the previous two basketball National Championship winners and a conference that still has a lot of football prowess. Maybe even better, Oregon could still keep a path for themselves in the College Football Playoff and will likely play more quality opponents in the Big 12.
There will have to be an answer for Olympic sports and where they would fit in the Big 12, but that will come later down the line. The main focus must be finding your revenue sports a good home, and the rest will come after that.
I don’t believe that the Big 12 option is perfect, but I think it helps create a true super conference when you add in Washington and Oregon. At the very least, the Big 12 will be able to fight a clean fight with the Big 10 and SEC, and maybe down the line can look at poaching a few ACC teams.
One thing that Oregon can’t do is stick back and let this thing get worse than it already is.