Big 12 trying west, Pac-12 on the lookout for a TV deal: What we’re listening to on realignment

Last July, weeks after USC and UCLA’s gorgeous Big Ten announcement, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff made a daring realignment prediction: “No Pac-12 school is going to the Big 12.”

Eight months later, we could lastly study whether or not his confidence was justified or false bravado.

Kliavkoff is dealing with strain to ship a brand new media rights deal to his members by the tip of the month. If the greenback figures or the small print are underwhelming, March will be the second when the Big 12 lastly strikes. Sources briefed on the discussions say the convention has been in latest contact with the so-called Four Corners faculties — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — which has renewed optimism that convincing them to affix is feasible.

Brett Yormark has eyed westward enlargement because the day he was employed because the Big 12’s new commissioner final summer season. Yormark has by no means been shy about his curiosity in increasing the Big 12 into the “fourth time zone” to ascertain a very nationwide convention and increase the worth of his league’s media rights. The arrival of BYU this summer season will get the Big 12 into the Mountain Time Zone. Yormark needs extra, although he has at all times mentioned any additions must be additive and never dilutive.

“I don’t think any of us are trying to dismantle the Pac-12,” Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades instructed SicEm365 on Tuesday. “If there’s opportunity, and whenever their TV media deal comes to fruition and if those institutions decide that it’s not good for them, then the Big 12 will be ready. And that probably is as simple as I can say it.”

Yormark can also be deep in discussions with Gonzaga, however sources concerned within the course of indicated he needs readability on the Pac-12’s scenario earlier than making that transfer.

Since these enlargement courtships started final summer season, Yormark has been assured he can persuade his targets that the longer term is brighter within the Big 12. He ramped up the strain by leaping the Pac-12 in line and reaching an early extension with ESPN and Fox in October that can make his members extra money than they do now with Oklahoma or Texas. That settlement will usher in a reported $31.7 million yearly for every Big 12 member, setting a measuring stick for the Pac-12’s deal.

As The Athletic reported final month, Kliavkoff has been met with lukewarm curiosity within the market. ESPN, Amazon and Apple are the one recognized suitors, and any deal will seemingly put the vast majority of the league’s occasions on an over-the-top streaming service. The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch reported there’s curiosity from Amazon in a weekly Friday night time Pac-12 sport however that the 2 sides have been “far apart” in February. And the Pac-12’s timing couldn’t be worse. Just since final summer season, networks have dedicated billions in future rights charges to the Big Ten and Big 12, and Disney’s cost-cutting CEO Bob Iger mentioned in February that “we’re simply going to have to get more selective” in sports activities bidding.

Still, the sports activities consulting agency Navigate’s modeling initiatives the Pac-12’s common annual worth at $31 million per faculty, barely lower than the Big 12’s new deal. Although the Big 12 has bigger fan bases, Pac-12 video games on ABC, Fox, NBC and CBS averaged 20 p.c greater rankings than comparable Big 12 video games (excluding each leagues’ departing members) from 2014 to 2021, in response to information supplied to The Athletic.

Multiple folks aware of the Pac-12’s board members expressed doubt that their faculties would change conferences until it’s for a considerably higher deal. School presidents, not ADs, authorize realignment selections, and the Pac-12’s prioritize tutorial and cultural suits greater than most. Washington State president Kirk Schultz and Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy have each tried to defuse the assorted rumors in latest interviews.

“There’s lots of reasons for us to hold together. The different members of the Pac-12 understand it,” Murthy instructed John Canzano. “All this talk about people running off and joining the Big Ten and Big 12 or whatever is just talk.”

Motivating these presidents to broaden the Pac-12 has additionally been a problem. They haven’t but reached a consensus about inviting San Diego State, SMU or different enlargement candidates, sources briefed on the discussions mentioned. Two summers in the past, within the wake of the SEC including Oklahoma and Texas, the Pac-12 board had an opportunity to welcome any variety of present Big 12 faculties — and handed on all of them.

But circumstances have modified. Those sources imagine if Yormark can persuade the management at two Pac-12 faculties to affix the Big 12, that is likely to be all it takes to land all 4 and pull the convention aside.

Yormark would wish to get Fox to be an equal share companion in enlargement. CBS Sports beforehand reported that the Big 12’s new rights contract contains an settlement with ESPN on a professional rata clause however that Fox has not dedicated to at least one. ESPN acquired 63 p.c of the brand new TV take care of the Big 12, sources briefed on the settlement confirmed. Fox must log off on the Big 12 including Pac-12 faculties as full-share members.

Yormark strongly believes basketball is undervalued in these TV rights talks. He has dropped hints about an curiosity in unbundling it from soccer and promoting these rights individually when the Big 12 subsequent hits the market in 2030-31. That’s one motivation behind the Big 12’s continued talks with hoops powerhouse Gonzaga. Joining as a non-football member would imply a smaller income share for the Bulldogs, however they’d be an inarguably useful addition. Arizona, a top-10 program with extra Pac-12 titles than each faculty however Big Ten-bound UCLA, would equally increase the perfect convention in males’s school basketball and its long-term ambitions.

“I think we have an opportunity to monetize basketball in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Yormark mentioned in an look on the Wilner & Canzano podcast final month. “It’s certainly something I’m thinking about. So if the opportunity ever exists where, within the construct of what makes sense for expansion, as part of that, we could double down on basketball and further cement our leadership position, it’s certainly something that I’m willing to consider.”

On the Pac-12 aspect, a important second on this course of might come subsequent week, on the convention’s males’s and girls’s basketball tournaments in Las Vegas. The ADs in attendance are going to need readability and exhausting numbers. Kliavkoff took these rights to the open market in October. Nearly 5 months have handed. On Feb. 13, Pac-12 presidents launched a joint assertion emphasizing their unity and vowing a deal can be consummated “in the very near future.”

There’s no official deadline, however every day this negotiation course of drags on cranks up anxiousness and, maybe, vulnerability. As the adage goes within the gross sales world: Time kills all offers. What finally issues is the deal Kliavkoff can ship for his members within the weeks forward. If it’s insufficient, Yormark and the Big 12 are poised to pounce.

(Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Source link

Leave a Comment