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Canzano: Pac-12 busy fielding inquiries from expansion candidates
More than a dozen schools have reached out.
ATLANTA — There are a lot of back-room conversations happening right now in college football. Be sure — people are talking.
Or at least the consultants working on behalf of the people at some schools are talking with consultants working on behalf of the conferences.
Said one long-time industry insider: “Lotta back-room phone conversations going on these days. They don’t always amount to anything.”
The Pac-12 has fielded “more than a dozen” inquiries from schools wanting to join the conference, per a source. More than 10 other universities have back-channeled through lawyers and consultants with the conference, exploring the fit and asking questions.
Will the talking result in Pac-12 expansion?
The interest is there. It may make sense. But Pac-12 leadership has not yet met in-person with any potential expansion candidates, the source said.
Brett McMurphy recently reported that two Pac-12 members — Washington and Oregon — engaged in exploratory discussions with the Big Ten Conference.
From the piece:
These meetings did not involve university presidents or Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, sources said. The meetings were conducted with lawyers and consultants representing the schools and the Big Ten to determine the school’s compatibility with the league, sources said.
The compatibility component is vital. Several universities in various conferences have hired consulting firms to help with the calculus. The conferences also employ consultants and analysts to work on their behalf to help gauge the potential fit.
Am I surprised lawyers/consultants working on behalf of Oregon and Washington would back-channel with the Big Ten? Nope. The Ducks and Huskies should explore all options and do what’s best for themselves. Even if both sit tight, they’d be foolish not to ask questions and discover what options are available.
The Pac-12 is currently negotiating a new media-rights package and will eventually present members with a deal to vote on. Before that approval, Oregon and Washington would ideally want to know whether joining the Big Ten is even a possibility and at what kind of media-rights distribution payout. So might some other members.
The Big Ten’s $1.23 billion-a-year media rights deal is at the center of all of this, of course. Any university added to the Big Ten would have to generate more than $72 million in annual media rights revenue to justify their addition. Or they’d likely have to take a reduced distribution.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 would want to know what the additions of a handful of schools (i.e. San Diego State, UNLV, SMU, select Big 12 members, etc.) might do to its media-rights valuation models.
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said on Media Day: “We are actively exploring expansion opportunities.”
Kliavkoff listed his criteria:
It felt like a foregone conclusion. A few weeks later, ESPN’s president of content, Burke Magnus, said in a podcast interview: “I don’t think anybody believes the Pac-12 will stay at 10, necessarily, but we don’t need to know anything beyond, ‘These are the 10, these are the rights, here’s the value, and there will be a mechanism to account for any new members if that is to happen.’”
Boise State has hired a consulting firm, per sources. It has back-channeled on its behalf to determine whether it’s a good fit in the Pac-12 and/or Big 12. I made the Pac-12 expansion cases for San Diego State, Boise State, Fresno State, SMU and UNLV and others earlier this week.
San Diego State makes a lot of sense for the Pac-12. It has a robust media market (1.1 million television households) and great geography. UNLV would be a speculative play all the way. Some others aren’t as clear.
Still, it appears there’s talking going on.
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