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How Pac-12 football coaches are handling conference realignment topic with recruits 

Matt Zenitzby:Matt Zenitz08/03/23


For one Pac-12 assistant coach, one of the latest unanswerable questions regarding conference realignment came up during a recent conversation with a recruit.

“Does this change my NIL situation?” the recruit asked.

Lacking a great answer, the coach simply changed the subject. 

There’s a lot that right now. Recruits (and their parents) want to know as much as possible about the different scenarios with conference realignment and what it all could mean for a combination of the Pac-12, individual schools and recruits. Rightfully so.

It’s coming up, as you can probably imagine, in “a good amount” of recruiting conversations at this point, according to Pac-12 staffers.

A staffer at one Pac-12 school said it’s been more parents than recruits on their end asking those types of questions.

For others, the questions have been coming more so directly from recruits.

Unfortunately for most of these Pac-12 coaches and staffers, the information they’re getting is no greater than what’s being shared publicly. That level of unknown and the inability to give definitive answers has led to many Pac-12 team staffers taking a similar stance as what Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch shared during a press conference on Tuesday.

“Obviously I don’t know what’s happening with the conference,” Fisch said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen there. But I do know Arizona is a great brand and we’ll be just fine.”

That’s been the consistent message to recruits from staffers at most Pac-12 schools to go along with explanations for the optimism.

The Arizona State staff, for example, is confident about its outlook based on factors such as being in one of the top-five largest cities in the United States and being in close to a top-10 media market.

The staff at Stanford, meanwhile, continues to pitch recruits on being a unique combination of one of the top-ranked universities in the country and also a football program that’s won three conference championships in the last 11 years and produced the highest number of NFL draft picks among Pac-12 teams since 2012.

There are examples like that with other schools, too.

“We’ll be fine no matter what,” a Pac-12 team official said of his mindset and his team’s message to recruits.

“Regardless of where the dominoes fall, we’re confident that we’ll be a part of the future from a college conference standpoint,” a coach at a different school said.

“For us, it’s just like: ‘Hey, whatever conference we’re going to end up in, whether it be the Pac or whatever, we’re going to be alright,’” a staffer at a different Pac-12 school added. “And in the long-term, it doesn’t really matter. These kids should be focusing more on where they’re going to school than what conference they’re playing in. So it shouldn’t factor in that much. That’s pretty much the message.”

While Oregon State and Washington State seem to be the Pac-12 schools with the most cause for concern about their positioning for moving forward, the outlook and possibilities are better for the other remaining Pac-12 schools.

Arizona, Arizona State and Utah could all end up joining the Big-12. The Big Ten’s presidents, meanwhile, authorized commissioner Tony Petitti Thursday morning to explore expansion with the top considerations being Oregon and Washington, according to ESPN.

“If I’m Colorado, if I’m Arizona (if they go to the Big-12), it brings excitement, more relevancy,” a Pac-12 coach said. “It’s a huge selling pitch as far as where college football is headed into these super leagues. Now if you’re Wazzu, if you’re Oregon State, it might be quite disheartening to go through this process right now because, if I’m one of those guys, my competitive advantage was my P5 status and playing schools like Oregon, UCLA and USC. But now I may be forced into the Mountain West.”

Of the Pac-12’s remaining schools, Oregon has the highest ranked 2024 class at No. 14 in the On3 Team Rankings. Stanford, at No. 22, is the only other Pac-12 team currently ranked in the top-30. Washington (31), Arizona (40) and Arizona State (44) are others in the top-50.

Nevertheless, recruits from states like Texas have mentioned to Pac-12 staffers about being excited with the potential opportunity to play games in their home state should a specific school end up making the move to a conference such as the Big 12.

There are other elements of conference movement that coaches believe could end up being advantages, too. Maybe even that aforementioned NIL piece of it.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty for schools,” a coach said, “but definitely some places who can kind of preach optimism.”