Climate change is quite the thing, isn’t it? Nearly a decade ago, the college football climate made life difficult for residents living in the southern and central Big 12 states. Buffaloes were forced to migrate west, while Cornhuskers went north.
An extinction-like event for the Big 12, a proposed Pac-16 “super conference,” appeared imminent with the likes of Sooners, Longhorns, Cowboys, Red Raiders and Aggies considered doing what Native Americans had done for thousands of years, following the Buffaloes west.
But the manifest destiny didn’t come to be for those schools. Instead, they opted to build country roads up north and discovered a species of Horned Frogs in the new climate. The changing climate would cause the loss of Aggies, Tigers, Longhorns and Sooners but also force evolution with the additions of Knights, Bearcats, Cougars and a new species of Tigers finding their way south. Finally, the fragile ecosystem stabilized.
It appears that the climate has changed once again. The Buffaloes are migrating back east as the west’s future looks inhabitable. The Pac-12, who just a decade ago came as close as any to being the first 16-team “super conference,” is reportedly losing Colorado to that very same conference they poached the school from years ago.
Colorado leaving Pac-12 to return to Big 12 in 2024, sources told @ActionNetworkHQ. CU will receive full Big 12 share ($31.7M) from ESPN/Fox media deal. Buffs left because of Big 12 stability & Pac-12’s uncertainty, sources said. Announcement Thursdayhttps://t.co/IOo8LWAuTF pic.twitter.com/4Ilq91C0EO
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 26, 2023
Updated story on Colorado's potential move to the Big 12. Colorado is in deep discussions, and there's a public board meeting set for Colorado to vote on an "Athletics Operations" item. The Big 12 Presidents have a meeting to discussion expansion tonight.https://t.co/7EEzg6Yb0l
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) July 26, 2023
Action Network’s Brett McMurphy and ESPN’s Pete Thamel both report that Colorado has a meeting tomorrow to discuss joining the Big 12 in 2024, while the conference itself had a meeting tonight to discuss expansion. This comes after Colorado held an executive board session on Wednesday to discuss a move to the Big 12. The meeting tomorrow is public, as required by Colorado, and called a “special board meeting,” with the only agenda item being “Action Item: Athletics Operations.”
If you’ve ever been to a board meeting before, then you’d know that an action item means a vote will occur.
The meetings come after months and months of unsuccessful TV negotiations by the “conference of champions.” In the same Thamel article, ESPN’s Heather Dinich reported that Pac-12 presidents still haven’t been shown a television number by commissioner George Kliavkoff. Meanwhile, Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano told the Denver Post last week that he was expecting a television number to be pitched to the Pac-12 presidents before the conference held their media day.
At the media day, Colorado Athletic Director Rick George left early after Kliavkoff’s remarks. Kliavkoff downplayed Pac-12 media deal concerns when asked and said that one was coming “in the near future.” He didn’t sound bothered by the long negotiations saying, “we find the longer we wait for the media deal, the better the options we get.”
Well, Klaivkoff may find that the longer they wait, the worse the conference gets.
With Colorado, who played in the Big 12 from 1996-2010 after being a founding member of the Big Eight from 1948-95, reportedly joining the Big 12, that brings their membership to 13. Since being in the Pac-12 Colorado football has struggled with just two winning seasons in that time frame. They’ve since hired former two-sport professional athlete Deion Sanders who has re-energized the program with a highly touted transfer class. They’ve gone from a 1-11 laughing stock to one of the most exciting teams in one off-season. It’s difficult to imagine that without Sanders, Colorado would be making this move.
A move by Colorado may start a chain reaction in which the three other “four corner schools” in Arizona, Arizona State and Utah follow the Buffaloes migration. Oregon and Washington, who are generally considered the biggest brands remaining in the Pac-12, have reportedly wanted to follow USC and UCLA to the Big Ten.
That was an issue that led to former Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren leaving the conference as he reportedly wanted the conference to add the Ducks and Huskies. The Big Ten could still invite those two schools, but if they don’t then the Big 12 could snag them as well.
In the meantime, the 13-team Big 12’s TV deal will pay Colorado the full $31.7 million media share as any additional power-five program receives an equal television share, with ESPN and Fox agreeing to increase the payout enough to put a new power-five program on par with the rest of the Big 12. And further Pac-12 teams will also receive an equal share.
As we await the official announcement from Colorado and the Big 12, it’s fair to wonder what will be next. Outside of other potential Pac-12 departures, the Big 12 has reportedly been considering Connecticut for quite sometime in addition to other basketball-only schools like Gonzaga. If the Big 12 can get Pac-12 schools, they can likely get those schools as well, but with a constantly changing climate, it’s difficult to see who will migrate next.
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