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Sports >  NCAA football

Commentary: After formation of alliance, chances of Pac-12 expansion rise … but only by a fraction

Aug. 25, 2021 Updated Wed., Aug. 25, 2021 at 8:43 p.m.

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

From the point in late July that commissioner George Kliavkoff revealed all options were on the table and inbound interest was significant, the likelihood of Pacific-12 Conference expansion was just south of slim.

None of the Big 12 options added media value and fit institutionally.

But now, after the formation of an alliance with the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast conferences, the prospects for Pac-12 expansion are, at best, a tick north of none.

You cannot very well form a partnership designed to “stabilize a volatile environment,” in the words of ACC commissioner Jim Phillips, then implement a strategy that creates instability.

You cannot very well adhere to the belief that the Big 12 “matters in college athletics” (also Phillips), then actively participate in its undoing.

You cannot very well say “the things you can achieve by expanding are things we can achieve by the relationships we announced this morning” with the alliance – as Kliavkoff told Sports Illustrated – and then turn around and expand.

Well, you could do and say those things, then plunder the Big 12. But the Southeastern Conference would look virtuous by comparison.

(To be clear: Every member of the alliance would have invited Texas and Oklahoma in a nanosecond if given the chance, and any commissioner who turned down overtures from the Longhorns and Sooners would be fired in a millisecond.)

The Pac-12 is expected to announce later this week whether or not it will pursue expansion. Expect the conference to stand down.

In addition to the lack of obvious economic and institutional fits, there is another piece to consider – perhaps the most important piece of all: There is zero indication the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors want to expand.

And if they aren’t interested, the process is effectively dead on arrival.

Recall what Washington State president Kirk Schulz, who was in charge of Kansas State when the Big 12 almost collapsed 10 years ago, said after the Texas and Oklahoma news first surfaced:

“A lot of people now are very concerned about the predatory nature of the SEC. More presidents are talking. There’s a lot of back and forth.”

And this:

“What the SEC has done is unify the other conferences in a way that nothing else could have, in terms of working together.” (Prophetic words, indeed.)

You cannot very well accuse another conference of predation … and then do it yourself.

If the conference doesn’t announce by 5 p.m. Friday that it’s sticking with 12, consider us shocked.

Our final comment (for now) on the alliance involves the timing.

We have been asked repeatedly in the past 20 hours about the lack of details and the absence of a binding document.

Those issues are interconnected with the timeline.

Any contractual agreement that would include details requires not only a level of commitment none of the conferences are currently willing to make but also … lawyers.

In other words, it would have taken months, and the commissioners didn’t have months:

They had weeks, because the alliance needed to be solidified before the next College Football Playoff meeting, in late September.

Also, the commissioners appear to have taken the Big 12’s plight into account.

The sooner they could forge an agreement, which presumably snuffs out Pac-12 expansion plans, the sooner the Big 12 would know its fate and plot a path forward.

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