Big 12, Pac-12 leaders meeting to discuss alignment options including potential merger or scheduling deal

NCAA Football
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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and first-year Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff will meet Tuesday to discuss whether an alignment between the two conferences makes sense going forward, sources tell CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. There are a number of options up for discussion between the two Power Five big-wigs ranging from a simple scheduling alliance to something more drastic like a merger between the leagues.

This meeting comes just one day after Bowlsby floated both scenarios during a hearing with the Texas Senate regarding the future of college sports in the Lone Star State. The Athletic‘s Max Olson first reported the meeting between Bowlsby and Kliavkoff.

The recent decision by Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 in favor of the SEC has led to massive uncertainty — particularly within the Big 12 itself. The conference will be left with eight members once the Longhorns and Sooners leave in July 2025, though their exit could be hastened for any number of reasons.

In order for Bowlsby to keep his league afloat, a partnership with another conference might be the best option. Discussions about such a move around college football have mentioned two conferences in particular, the Pac-12 and American.

The idea of a scheduling alliance could be mutually beneficial for both conferences. The Big 12’s television deal will take a huge hit without Texas and Oklahoma in the league, but adding games with Pac-12 powers like USC, Oregon and Washington would likely minimize the financial impact of the departure of the Longhorns and Sooners. It would also help the Pac-12 get desperately-needed attention from a college football world that generally overlooks a conference that hasn’t put a team in the College Football Playoff since 2016.

The Big 12 and Pac-12 both have TV rights deals with ESPN and Fox.

Kliavkoff confirmed at Pac-12 Media Day last week that such a move has been on his radar.

“I think it’s an interesting opportunity,” he said. “It’s under discussion, but nothing to announce today.”

A complete merger between the two conferences would create a 20-team superconference, assuming no programs were pushed out. It would also give the new league four more teams than the SEC, though conferences often operate without equal numbers of teams. If a merger was to happen, all bets would be off in terms of next steps around the country with realignment in full swing. 

Whatever happens with the Big 12, it’s clear that it’s trying to bring into focus a future that has become blurry over the last three weeks. Dodd reported last week that the Big 12 is under the impression that the American is expected to be an aggressor in this current round of realignment with several of the remaining eight Big 12 teams being potential targets. However, considering the Big 12 has autonomy status, it would likely make more sense for it to assume the AAC than the other way around.

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