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Pac-12's future looks uncertain at best as it reels from departures

The future of the Pac-12 is “very much in doubt” after losing USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, according to Jon Wilner of the San Jose MERCURY NEWS. The conference was “caught completely off guard by the departures of the schools” (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 7/1). ESPN.com’s Kyle Bonagura noted the Pac-12 and member schools “were completely caught off-guard by this move,” and it is “going to take some time to have any real sense of what happens for the conference.” It has the “potential to serve as essentially a death blow for the Pac-12.” The conference can “still exist but the idea that it can compete in the national landscape without the Los Angeles schools is absurd” (ESPN.com, 6/30). ESPN’s Heather Dinich noted Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff, who was on vacation, was “blindsided” by the announcements from USC and UCLA (“This Just In,” ESPN, 6/30).

DON'T COUNT THEM OUT: In S.F., Ron Kroichick cites a source as saying that the Pac-12 “will not go away.” The source, who has experience working in college sports, said, “You’ve got 10 major institutions still left that need and want to conduct sports. The wild card is what other (Pac-12) schools might try to do. I’m sure everyone is shopping right now” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/1). But in DC, Culpepper & Hill note the move “will bludgeon a Pac-12 already limping into the 2020s.” The conference has missed the past five CFPs and has participated in just two of the first eight CFPs” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/1). ACC Network’s Mark Packer said the Pac-12 is “toast in terms of Power Five” status because “you can’t lose those two and go, ‘Oh, we’re good.’” Packer: “The Pac-12’s not going to replace USC and UCLA.” ACC Network’s Wes Durham notes the Pac-12 “lost the No. 2 media market in the country” (“Packer & Durham,” ACC Network, 7/1). In Indianapolis, Gregg Doyel writes, "The Pac-12 is gone. There is no Pac-12 anymore, only a husk" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/1).

SIGNIFICANT BLOW TO FOOTBALL: In L.A., McCollough, Plaschke, Kartje & Bolch note the loss of USC and UCLA “signifies a death blow to the notion of the Pac-12 as a competitive, top-level football conference.” Kliavkoff stressed a “commitment to fixing his league’s prolonged football struggles” during his first year with the conference, and he also “understood how crucial USC would be in improving that standing.” Conference realignment has shown that the “attractiveness of a university’s football brand has always been the driving factor” (L.A. TIMES, 7/1). In Portland, James Crepea notes the Pac-12 is “facing an existential crisis.” Kliavkoff was “’convinced’ that his conference was in line to receive a larger share of revenue once the College Football Playoff eventually expands.” Crepea: “That belief, it turns out, is incorrect and now the Pac-12′s future is in jeopardy” (Portland OREGONIAN, 7/1). In Washington, Dale Grimmett notes the outlook is “especially unsettling for Washington State, which in football is the financially poorest member of the Pac-12.” Even if other schools “don’t try to bolt, the departures of the L.A. schools could mean the end of the Pac-12 or at least its inclusion in what’s now called the Power Five” (MOSCOW-PULLMAN DAILY NEWS, 7/1).

NO CLEAR ROAD TO TRAVEL: In San Jose, Jon Wilner notes there are several expansion options for the Pac-12, but “none of them are ideal.” The conference could “add the top-tier football teams from the Mountain West, such as San Diego State, Boise State or Fresno State,” though those schools “bring little in the way of media value.” It also could consider an “outright merger.” Following last year’s departure of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, the Big 12 “reached out to the Pac-12 and asked about a merger, only to have the offer rebuffed.” A merger with the Big 12 “would give rise to a conference with 22 teams and span three time zones.” However, that would not drive the value in TV rights “even close” to what a revamped Big Ten or SEC would get (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 7/1). In L.A., Adam Grosbard notes the path forward for Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 is “uncertain at best.” Would the league try to “add schools like San Diego State and Boise State to stop the bleeding” or would it “try to merge with another conference” and form its own super league? (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/1). However, in Phoenix, Michelle Gardner writes finding other schools to replace the departed “might be a stretch because it would hardly be considered a good landing spot now” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/1).

FULL MERGER UNLIKELY: In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington writes it is possible the Pac-12 and Big 12 will “come up with a plan to strengthen marketability and leverage in TV negotiations,” but it is doubtful to be a “full-on merger.” Pac-12 schools “reportedly have issues with some of the Texas schools” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/1).

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