Reports: Big 12, Pac-12 officially end partnership talks

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The potential for any sort of partnership between the Big 12 and Pac-12 reportedly went up in flames on Monday.

As the SEC and Big Ten further distance themselves from the rest of the major collegiate conferences, a partnership between the Big 12 and Pac-12 was “discussed extensively the last two weeks,” according to ESPN's Pete Thamel. However, after the two sides were unable to forge a union that was mutually beneficial, the talks officially ended Monday.

According to ESPN, “a full merger” between the two conferences was part of the discussions, as were combining pooling rights and potential scheduling arrangements. The merger was the most preferred option. But in the end, though, it was determined that combining the two conferences would not create a sufficient increase in media rights revenue.

From ESPN:

A Pac-12 source briefed on the conversations said that the Big 12 had expressed interest on Friday in possibly exploring a full merger. The Big 12 source said of the three options laid out by the Pac-12 — pooling rights, a scheduling concept or fully combining the leagues — the only scenario that could have potentially driven value because of the sheer numbers of schools and population areas was a full merger of the leagues.

The Pac-12 source indicated the Big 12 was interested in that option. A Big 12 source said the Big 12 needed more time to explore that option further, which it did over the weekend and decided not to explore any options further.

PAC-12 logo at Sun Devil Stadium during second half of an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Kent State, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
A potential partnership between the Big 12 and Pac-12 was reportedly discussed "extensively" the last two weeks. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Could Big 12 move to add Pac-12 schools?

Pac-12 members USC and UCLA announced on June 30 that they will leave the conference for the Big Ten, a massive move ahead of the next round of media rights agreements. While the addition of the Los Angeles market beefs up the Big Ten’s impending deal significantly, the value of the upcoming Pac-12 deal took a huge hit.

In the aftermath, the Pac-12 was left exploring all options to secure its future, leading to these discussions with the Big 12.

But now that these talks have come and gone, what could happen next?

The Big 12 potentially adding some of the leftover Pac-12 members — like Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — has been the subject of several media reports. In fact, CBS Sports reported Monday night that “the door remains open” for the Big 12 to invite Pac-12 teams.

Oregon and Washington, seen by some as the two most valuable Pac-12 members, are “desperate to get to the Big Ten,” Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel reported last week. There’s also the status of Notre Dame, which is weighing whether or not to remain as an FBS independent. It’s been widely reported that the Big Ten would love to add Notre Dame.

From a media rights perspective, the Pac-12 is currently in an exclusive 30-day negotiating window with ESPN and Fox. The television figures presented should largely inform what transpires in the coming weeks and months.

The Big 12, meanwhile, has its own media rights negotiations on the horizon. The Big 12’s deal expires in 2025, a year after the Pac-12’s. Brett Yormark, the Big 12’s new commissioner, said last week that the Big 12 is “open for business” and emphasized the importance of the next media rights contract.

“We will leave no stone unturned to drive value for the conference,” Yormark said at Big 12 media days. “Exploration and optionality is at the forefront of what we are focused on. Everything we do must create momentum for these [media rights] negotiations.”