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Report: Big Ten presidents begin 'exploratory discussions' on further expansion amid Pac-12 concerns

On3 imageby:Andrew Graham08/02/23


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It was seemingly inevitable that the Big Ten Conference, in light of the uncertainty and instability of the Pac-12 Conference, would starting eying a future move. And according to Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel, a number of administrators in the Big Ten have begun to do just that.

While talks are only in their infancy, a framework of who the league might pursue has become clear, Wetzel reported. The goal: Add Washington and Oregon if the league wants 18 teams, and further add Stanford and Cal to get to a round 20.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel added that Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti had already been doing his due diligence on potentially adding Oregon and Washington, belying his public comments that he was focused solely on making the USC and UCLA additions a smooth arrival. Thamel added that the work from Petitti has intensified in recent days, but the Big Ten won’t make a move unless another domino falls in the Pac-12.

Last week, the Colorado board of regents voted to leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12 Conference, with Arizona potentially on their heels, setting off potentially another wave of conference realignment.

The Arizona board of regents met on Tuesday this week to reportedly discuss the options of staying in the Pac-12 or bolting, along with Colorado, to the Big 12. The meeting immediately went into a closed session and so far there has been little information publicly about what decision might be made.

Arizona’s decision likely hinges on the nature of the Pac-12 media deal, which is reportedly primarily via Apple TV streaming and will have revenue distributions to schools based on subscription numbers. While there are surely more factors than money and exposure at play, if the Pac-12 deal falls significantly short — compared to the Big 12 — in terms of revenue and ability to get exposure as fans will need to seek out streaming, it could be a straightforward decision for the leaders at Arizona.

The quartet of teams the Big Ten is reportedly considering — or would consider — fits with what countless observers have suspected in another wave of realignment. Without a safe harbor on the West Coast, Oregon and Washington would need a new conference and the Big Ten provides more like-minded institutions academically than the Big 12 would. It’s a similar story for Stanford and Cal, both of which are renowned for their academic prowess.

It’s also a logical move for the league since the Big Ten is already adding USC and UCLA to the conference in 2024. Adding the schools from the Bay Area and flagship institutions in Oregon and Washington would give the Big Ten hegemony on the West Coast in terms of markets and football achievement.

Plus, along with USC, Stanford is an annual rival of Notre Dame. Adding the Cardinal could be a long-term play to make it even more enticing for the Irish to eventually join the league.