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Why Did the Pac-12 Implode?

September 8, 2023
what caused pac-12 failure?

It was the “Conference of Champions.” Now, it’s the Pac-2. Oregon State and Washington State are the only remaining members of what is still the Pac-12 for one more academic year. With the announcement of Cal and Stanford heading to the ACC next year, only the Beavers and Cougars are left. They’ll have to figure it out on their own. The other ten teams got out of Dodge while the gettin’ was good.

How in the world did one of the most recognized college athletic conferences simply fall apart? Well, it’s been in the works for a while. It didn’t just happen overnight and former commissioner Larry Scott should bear much of the blame.


March 2009

The former president and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, Scott takes over as commissioner of the Pac-12. He has no football experience whatsoever, but he was an All-American tennis player at Harvard.

He decides to move the conference headquarters to San Francisco. The Bay Area has some of the highest rents in the US. Pac-12 schools will pay over $92 million in rent over an 11-year period. It’s substantially more than the other Power 5 conferences.


2011: Potential Expansion

Two of the biggest blueblood college football programs in the nation are looking to get out of the Big 12. Scott has an opportunity to land Texas and Oklahoma and add them to the conference. Instead, he decides that the conference does not need to expand.


2012: Birth of a Network

If the Big Ten can do it, so can the Pac-12. Or, at least that’s what Scott thought. The Big Ten started its own network with the conference members sharing the revenue. It was a huge success. The Pac-12 Network? Not so much.

The Big Ten Network had 60 million subscribers in 2014 and the startup SEC Network almost instantly had 75 million. The Pac-12 had just 26 million two years in. Scott could never gain the distribution necessary to make the network a success. He did, however, negotiate a media rights deal that expires next year.


2021: New Hire

As Scott’s popularity faded after not adding Texas and Oklahoma, the failure of the network, and rising costs; the conference hired George Kliavkoff to clean up the mess. Just weeks into his tenure, Texas and Oklahoma announced they were jumping to the SEC in 2024. 

Who is Carol Folt

This picture is perfect for what happened with this woman under charge. Peace out to the Pac-12. It was fun while it lasted.

With the Big 12 – which only had 10 schools – dropping to eight schools, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was interested in forming a Pac-20 with the conference’s remaining schools. The Pac-12 prepared a presentation to encourage expansion and the benefits of the eight Big 12 schools joining the Pac-12. Then, Carol Folt killed the whole deal. She was chosen to represent USC and UCLA. About three slides into her presentation, she began talking about why the Pac-12 shouldn’t expand. 

The Big 12 went ahead and added four new programs (UCF, BYU, Cincinnati, and Houston). They began Big 12 play this year.


2022: Deal or No Deal

In October of last year, the Pac-12 began negotiating with FOX on a new TV deal. With the announcement of USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten and then Oregon and Washington choosing to jump ship too, FOX wasn’t willing to offer all that much. 

ESPN was interested in the Pac-12. They were, after all, the original #Pac12AfterDark network. Minus all the big schools in the Pac-12, ESPN was willing to offer roughly $30 to $35 million per school. The Pac-12 didn’t like those numbers.

Somehow, the Pac-12 CEO group wanted $50 million per school…without USC, UCLA, and potentially Washington and Oregon. Yeah, not going to happen. A FOX/ESPN deal for the Big 12 will pay each school roughly $31.7 million per school. When the July 31 deadline passed and the Pac-12 had no TV deal, the conference was being held together by a thread. Colorado announced it was moving back to the Big 12 on July 26. 

Arizona, Arizona State and Utah also announced they were leaving the conference to move to the Big 12. With Cal and Stanford off to the ACC, that leaves Oregon State and Washington State as the last surviving members of what was once the Conference of Champions.


Don’t put a Harvard tennis player and a woman in charge of your football dominated sports conference. They simply don’t know what the hell they are doing.



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