In acknowledging last weekend that “schools have reached out to” the Pac-12 regarding potential membership, commissioner Larry Scott stressed on multiple occasions that his conference is not the aggressor in what could be the most expansive game of league musical chairs in college football’s storied history.
Ahead of Arizona State’s game Friday night — against, oddly enough, Missouri of the Big 12 — Scott reiterated that stance, adding that he hopes the status quo reigns when it comes to the current size of conferences across the country.
“Our hope is that there is no expansions and all conferences that are at 12 stay at 12. That would be our vote,” Scott said, hours before ASU would down Mizzou 37-30 in overtime in a game that served merely as a backdrop to potential conference apocalypse. “We’re very happy where we’re at and we’ve got a lot to do over the next year. …
“We think 12 is a good number and when we look at our peer conferences, they’re at 12, too, so we think it’s an evenly balanced, competitive landscape. And with the new TV deal that we’ve got done, the new network we’ve got, we’re thrilled with our position. We’ve pretty completely repositioned where the Pac-12 fits in the overall landscape and we’ve got some real work to do to make 12 work.”
Last summer, Scott expanded the Pac-10 into the Pac-12 by adding Colorado from the Big 12 and Utah from the Mountain West, but not before openly courting some combination of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in a concerted effort to create the first 16-team BcS “super conference”. A&M’s inevitable move to the SEC has revived the rumors, seemingly putting the Oklahoma and Texas schools on the brink of pulling up their Big 12 stakes and taking their conference affiliation out west.
At the time reports surfaced a week ago that the Sooners’ sole focus was on a move to the Pac-12, Scott said, without specifically addressing OU, “that there will probably be further expansion at some stage.” Scott drove that point home again last night. “It’s going to happen,” Scott said regarding further expansion.
But, Scott also made it clear that the instability in the Big 12 is the driving force on expansion this time around, not, as he put it, his conference being “very proactive… overt” like they were last summer.
“We haven’t spent one minute thinking about going further, that’s not our desire,” Scott said. “It’s when all this discussion started happening in the Big 12 and it seems like the SEC is going to go beyond 12 and teams started approaching, let’s take a step back and look at the future — if the landscape is going to change. …
“I think this caught everybody by surprise, that this instability has kicked up again. It’s been pretty clear to me that with the current setup there are going to be certain conferences that are very stable, others that are maybe unstable with some schools that are aspirational. Looking for something else.”
There’s one additional point Scott made that should not be overlooked. The Pac-12 earlier this year signed a new television deal with ESPN and FOX worth nearly $3 billion over a 12-year period. Scott noted that there were provisions built into that agreement — specifically concerning a 16-team conference — that would allow the parties to revisit the deal if there were significant changes to the shape of the conference.
In other words, the Pac-12’s not being the aggressor in expansion as Scott stated, but the contractual language allows them to be very avid and eager listeners to any interested schools without fear of slicing members’ share of the newly-baked financial pie by adding additional schools.