Big 12 in contact with Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah as Pac-12 media rights future remains uncertain

Big 12 in contact with Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah as Pac-12 media rights future remains uncertain

The Big 12 recently renewed contact with four Pac-12 schools — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — as television contract negotiations for the Pac-12 continue to flounder, sources confirm to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. March will be a pivotal time for the Pac-12 to either deliver a new contract or risk losing key members of its league. 

After previously speaking as realignment kicked into gear but going radio silent for an extended period of time, sources say all four schools have more recently had contact with the Big 12, sources tell Dodd. The interest of the “Four Corners” schools leaving for the Big 12 has picked up in recent weeks as Pac-12 media rights negotiations have stalled, moving into a ninth month.

Interest in the Pac-12’s media rights are underwhelming, and the league remains the only Power Five conference without a long-term television contract. Most major networks have pulled out, leaving ESPN as the only major linear provider still involved in bidding. Amazon and Apple TV+ have long been considered potential streaming partners, but their level of interest and willingness to spend for a large pack of games is unclear.

The Big Ten (CBS, Fox, NBC) and SEC (ABC/ESPN) agreed to massive contracts securing their rights into the 2030s. The ACC is locked into an exclusive contract with ESPN through 2036. While the Pac-12 entered the market first, the Big 12 got its rightsholders (ESPN, Fox) to negotiate a new deal early, allowing the Big 12 to jump the Pac-12 and come to an agreement that solidifies their media rights through 2031.

Suddenly, the Pac-12 is faced with networks and potential streaming partners that have already outlaid significant capital acquiring sports rights and may not have the appetite for a reduced league without USC and UCLA.

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has made no secret that he is interested in westward expansion, and moving into the Pacific Time Zone has created conflict between him and Pac-12 counterpart George Kliavkoff. The conflict came to a head at Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles when Kliavkoff railed against Yormark and the Big 12.

“I’ve been spending four weeks trying to defend against grenades that have been lobbied in from every corner of the Big 12 trying to destabilize our remaining conference,” Kliavkoff said at the time. “I understand why they’re doing it. When you look at the relative media value between the two conferences, I get it. I get why they’re scared, why they’re trying to destabilize us.” 

This all comes less than one year after USC and UCLA announced plans to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, putting the Pac-12 in a perilous position. The two schools are projected to make at least $30 million more annually by joining the Big Ten.

For the “Four Corners” schools to consider leaving the Pac-12, it would likely take either true uncertainty over the Pac-12’s media rights or a significant revenue gap between the deal reached by the league and the one that currently exists for the Big 12.