Pac-12 may establish itself as the most successful conference in collegiate athletics with over 500 NCAA championships and has led the nation in 56 titles over the past 62 years.
But when it comes to the most profitable businesses, football and men’s basketball, the Conference of Champions has been falling short of expectations for years.
The lack of success, especially in football, combined with media rights missteps at the conference, left Pac-12 in a precarious financial position, opening the door for two of its top schools to leave the ship.
Now that UCLA and USC have moved into the Big 10 in 2024, the conference and its remaining member schools face an even more uncertain economic future.
âOn the one hand, you have skyrocketing costs and your sources of income being destroyed, which is a huge pressure,â said Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist. âOn the other hand, what are you doing? Well, I think something pretty drastic is about to happen.”
The Pac-12 dilemma has been brewing for years.
The Pac-12 has once played an important role in football conferences, and more recently has become a frequent player in the conversation about the national championship.
Since Oregon lost to Ohio State in the 2015 championship game, the Pac-12 has had one tag team game in the college football playoffs: Washington in 2017. Oregon has fallen since Chip Kelly left for the NFL in 2013, and Southern California, once a major conference program, has never fully returned from the Pete Carroll-era NCAA sanctions.
The Pac-12 has been just as quiet in men’s basketball, taking two teams â Oregon in 2017 and UCLA in 2021 â to the Final Four.
The lack of success meant that Pac-12 football games could be watched on television, which in turn made it difficult to poach top coaches and recruits from rival conferences, especially the football giant SEC.
“In the old days, USC and UCLA would have been at the top of the national football pile every year, but now they’re way down,” Zimbalist said. “And so you need to fill up a little, push them a little to the point where they can really become a strong, strong franchise again – and I just don’t see it.”
The abandonment of the Pac-12 was exacerbated by media rights deals.
As TV packages began to swell, former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott pushed for the conference to build its own network instead of partnering with ESPN, Fox, or another network. An offline network would allow Pac-12 to control programming, showcase their highly successful Olympic sports, and reap all of the financial benefits.
The Pac-12 networks never really took off as Scott had envisioned, bogged down in part by an inability to reach an agreement with DirecTV that prevented the conference’s sports coverage from reaching millions of homes.
Pac-12 did get a lucrative deal to air some of its games on ESPN and Fox, but the networks often wanted them to fill late-night slots on the East Coast.
The deals left the conference in the Pac-12 After Dark pit. Pac-12 had the lowest allocation rate of any Power Five school, with $19.8 million paid out to its member institutions in 2021.
In contrast, the SEC distributed $54.6 million to each of its member schools in 2021, while the Big Ten distributed $46.1 million.
Finance means stability in the world of college sports, so the lure of more money was a big reason why USC and UCLA left, which said they would face a cutback in the sport if they didn’t make it into the Big Ten.
These moves, in turn, will hurt Pac-12’s bottom line; not only has the conference lost two major programs, its position in the country’s second largest media market is fading.
âWhen you see the rich getting richer, people start grabbing their share,â said Tom McMillen, president and CEO of Lead1, which represents Football Bowl Subdivision sports directors and programs.
The loss of UCLA and USC puts the Pac-12 at a crossroads.
Last week, the conference announced it was seizing every opportunity to expand and accelerated talks on the next media rights deal; the current one should end in 2024.
Pac-12 could form a partnership with another conference in need of an elevator, such as the ACC, possibly causing travel issues for smaller sports. He could also add members from a small conference like Mountain West, or convince Big 12 schools to defect, as Colorado and Utah did in 2011.
The conference could also be forced if a few schools run to another conference to find stability, perhaps the Big 12 to form another super conference with the SEC and the Big Ten.
“I think you’ll see more consolidation,” McMillen said. âThis is not new. This is economy 101. There is a lot of efficiency. Think about all this: we have 32 conferences. The overhead is probably $1 billion, and when you put conferences together, you’re obviously optimizing something.”
A new reorganization of the conference is coming. The fate of the Pac-12 is yet to be determined.
LEXINGTON, Kentucky. Kentucky coach Kira Elsie says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.
The 6-foot, 4-year-old mail carrier learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received different opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior coach Courtney Jones said in a press release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.
Elsie said that Herron “is the epitome of a warrior” and everyone is grateful to be on the other side of the player’s operation. Herron is expected to return to campus early next month and continue rehab until she is allowed to return to normal activities.
âHer will and determination to eventually get back on the court is inspiring and it is this attitude towards the game that makes her the perfect fit for our program,â Elsie said in a press release. âWe are so excited to have Tionna back in our dressing room; it’s not the same without our whole team.”
Herron moved to Kentucky during the early signing period last fall, is rated a four-star prospect and is among the top 70 players in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference tournament and advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Michigan. Emony Bates, a former basketball prodigy who moved to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, has been charged with two felony charges after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.
Bates, 18, was unable to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a gun was found during a search, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.
Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the car and gun did not belong to Bates.
âI hope people can hold back on judgment and understand that there is a benefit of the doubt,â Haney said. âIt was not his car. It wasn’t his gun. â¦ We are still gathering facts.â
Bates was charged with concealed carry and altering the markings on firearms. He was released after his lawyer pleaded not guilty. The next hearing in the Bates case will take place on October 6.
âThis is his first run-in with the law,â Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”
Less than a month ago, the 6-foot Bates moved to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points per game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.
“We are aware of the situation with one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to collect more details and will provide additional comments when more information becomes available.”
Bates was the first sophomore to win the 2020 high school basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year award, defeating Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Last year, Detroit selected Cunningham with the first overall pick, two picks before the Clevelands took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.
Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago but later backed out and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, which ended 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed most of the season with a back injury before appearing in two games in the NCAA Tournament in Memphis.
In 2019, as a freshman in high school, the slender and experienced quarterback led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan Division I Player of the Year by the Associated Press. His second season was interrupted by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy in his junior year, his last year of high school.
STORRS, Connecticut. On Thursday, UConn announced that it had agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination lawsuits related to his 2018 firing.
The money is in addition to more than $11.1 million in back wages that Ollie has already paid off after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was wrongfully fired under the school’s agreement with the professors’ union.
“I’m grateful that we were able to come to an agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. âMy time at UConn as a student athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am glad that this issue has now been completely and finally resolved.
Ollie, the former UConn point guard who led the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was fired after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him on his contract, citing multiple NCAA violations in terminating the deal.
In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on two-year probation, and Ollie was subject to individual sanctioning for violations that the NCAA determined occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s lawyers, Jacques Parento and William Madsen, accused UConn of creating false…