Canzano: Pac-12 expansion ramps up
SDSU and SMU under the spotlight.
When USC and UCLA left the Pac-12 Conference last summer, they took a whopping 6.7 million Southern California television households with them.
George Kliavkoff appears motivated to replace that divot. The Pac-12 has been in communication with San Diego State. Kliavkoff, the conference commissioner, is reportedly headed to Dallas to talk with Southern Methodist University on Wednesday.
What you need to know:
• The Pac-12 is on a mission to replace the football inventory lost by the UCLA/USC defection to the Big Ten. That’s 23 combined football games and a pile of men’s basketball games.
• Adding San Diego State would get the Pac-12 back into Southern California and regain 1.13 million television households.
• Kliavkoff met in December with officials at San Diego State, a conference source told me. A 45-minute meeting between the sides took place in the time around Oregon’s Dec. 28 appearance in the Holiday Bowl, I’m told.
• Adding SMU would bring the Dallas TV market with it. That’s 2.96 million TV homes.
• SMU + San Diego State = 4.1 million combined TV households. That will be attractive to media partners. But after the dust settles, the Pac-12 would still have ~2.6 million fewer television homes than it did before the departures of USC/UCLA.
TV homes with the potential Pac-12 additions of SMU and San Diego State:
• The Big Ten will have 33.9 million TV homes after USC and UCLA join. The ACC has 28.3 million and the SEC’s looming expansion will raise that conference to 22.4 million TV homes. The Big 12 will swell to 15.1 million homes after its oncoming expansion.
• Stanford and Cal get to capture both the Bay Area and adjacent Sacramento TV market. That’s more than 4 million combined TV homes. Those two schools may be struggling to compete in a transfer portal/NIL world, but they’re essential Pac-12 members because of their media footprint.
• Would the Pac-12 expand beyond 12 members? It’s possible, depending on how motivated the conference is to add extra inventory and TV homes. The problem becomes finding no-brainer candidates who fit the geography and the conference’s academic profile.
• I’m told, per a source, that one of the media-rights partners the Pac-12 is engaged with is looking for “some tonnage.” The unnamed entity would like to beef up the inventory. This sounds a lot like Amazon, which needs content for the sports app it floated a while ago.
• ESPN and Amazon are the likely Pac-12 media-rights partners. FOX is out. I think that the ramp-up in expansion talk this week signals that the conference is wrapping up the media-rights negotiation. I expect the Pac-12 to have something to talk about before the conference basketball tournaments in Las Vegas next month.
• Fresno State has had “short interactions” with the Pac-12, per a well-placed conference source. No Kliavkoff visit yet, though. The Central Valley of California includes 2.3 million TV homes. That’s attractive. But Fresno’s close proximity to the Bay Area may make Stanford and Cal uneasy.
• Boise State doesn’t sit in a big TV market. There are only 517,000 television households in the entire state of Idaho. But TV partners (FOX, CBS) have a late-night love affair with that blue football field. ESPN may like the Broncos, too, but I wonder if some Pac-12 schools who compete vs. BSU for recruits would veto this one.
• UNLV is an interesting candidate for the Pac-12. The TV market only includes 757,840 households, but it’s a rapidly growing region that includes an NFL stadium and a sea of potential gaming sponsorship opportunities. If adding more football inventory is the Pac-12’s biggest mission, the Rebels become a candidate.
• Academic profile will be a consideration for any addition. The presidents and chancellors in the Pac-12 have never viewed UNLV, Fresno State and Boise State as academic peers. Would they start now? This feels like an obstacle for all three. SMU and San Diego State fit much better.
• I wonder if the Big 12 would look hard at Fresno State and Boise State as future expansion additions. Doing so, would add 2.8 million total TV homes and get Brett Yormark’s conference into that “fourth window” (Pacific Time Zone) he likes to talk about. I think both schools would prefer to be in the Pac-12, but the Big 12 isn’t a bad fallback for either. Keep an eye out there.
• There has been a lot of speculation about where Gonzaga basketball might fit. Would the Pac-12 add Gonzaga in men’s and women’s basketball? Would the school leave the safety and comfort of the WCC, where it enjoys a clear path to the NCAA Tournament? I don’t see it.
Football drives expansion, not basketball. But Gonzaga is worth considering. The only reason to add Gonzaga is to replace the lost NCAA Tournament units in men’s basketball caused by UCLA’s departure. But the dollars have to work.
• There’s going to be a lot of speculation and guessing in the coming weeks. I’m not here for the clicks. I’m here for you. My objective is to give you sourced, verified reporting and commentary that you can’t get anywhere else. If you’re not already subscribed, make sure you do so you don’t miss anything.
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