We’ve remained silent over the last nine months regarding the ongoing soap opera that has been the Pac-12 media negotiations, unlike certain other parties who are now busy trying to scrub egg detritus from their beet-red faces.
But now, it’s time to speak. This afternoon, the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted unanimously to adopt a resolution from president Todd Sailman announcing Colorado’s intention to leave the Pac-12 and rejoin the Big 12 effective July 1, 2024.
For months, George Kliavkoff and an army of Pac-12 related media entities have engaged in a propaganda war, eternally claiming the conference was on the verge of a major media rights deal which would rival or exceed on a per-team basis the $380 million annual deal that Brett Yormark negotiated with ESPN and FOX last fall.
That deal has yet to materialize, despite no fewer than half a dozen “we expect to have a deal within the next few weeks” statements dating all the way back to the end of 2022. The final straw for Colorado, presumably, was Kliavkoff’s refusal to provide terms at the Pac-12 media days last week.
The only formality left is the official invitation from the Big 12, but since multiple Big 12 school officials have already publicly welcomed the Buffs back to the fold and the conference office released a succinct two-word statement from Yormark — “They’re back.” — it’s safe to say there won’t be any roadblock in the way.
Media reports indicate that Colorado will re-enter the conference receiving a full share of distributions. ESPN is contractually on the hook for their 63% share of the increase, but FOX had to agree to pitch in another $12 million a year to make the deal happen.
This leaves the Big 12 with 13 teams, but the work probably isn’t finished. Arizona is of course still a probable target, and both Oregon and Washington have been in recent contact with the conference. If the sense in Dallas is that the Big 12 wants to stop at 14, then it’s probably a race between the two northwest schools to see who bites first, and then Arizona if neither makes the move. If a 16-team league is in the offing, all three might end up joining.
The Big Ten has effectively put Oregon and Washington in a bind over the last week by repeatedly stating that they have no interest in expanding until they can determine how well USC and UCLA integrate into the conference.
So, after a thirteen-year sojourn out west, Colorado has returned home. Ironically, they left due to concerns about the Big 12’s stability in the wake of Nebraska’s departure; they return, in the words of Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano and athletic director Rick George in a joint statement, for the “stability, resources, and exposure necessary for long-term future success...”
The wheel turns, ages come and pass.
Welcome back, Buffs.