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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Big Ten reportedly in ‘exploratory discussions’ to add up to four Pac-12 schools, WSU not among them

Washington State receiver Lincoln Victor looks for running room against the Washington Huskies during the 2022 Apple Cup.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group Bay Area News Group

With the Pac-12 struggling to land a satisfactory media-rights deal, a new threat has emerged to seemingly push the conference to the brink of extinction. Make that an old new threat: the Big Ten.

A group of Big Ten presidents is reportedly considering membership invitations for Washington, Oregon, Stanford and Cal, according to Yahoo. It could spell doom for Washington State and Oregon State.

The website described four unidentified presidents as engaging in “exploratory” discussions about creating a western division. USC and UCLA, poached by the Big Ten last summer, are scheduled to join the conference prior to the 2024 football season.

The news comes one day after Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff presented a media-rights deal to his schools – a proposal reportedly centered around a streaming partnership with Apple.

Yahoo reported: “The (Big Ten) discussions are in the very early stages, sources caution. No decision, including on whether to expand or stay put at 16 teams, has been made or is considered imminent.”

The Big Ten presidents had shown no interest in adding more schools following the move last summer to gobble up USC and UCLA, partly because the conference didn’t want to be viewed as predatory and partly because of financial complications.

However, Colorado’s move from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 and the potential for Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to do the same has massively destabilized the century-old conference – to the point that the Big Ten could appear as a savior for four of the remaining schools.

“The threat is real,” said an industry source, who echoed Yahoo’s description of the situation as preliminary.

Oregon and Washington would be the options if the Big Ten added two schools and became an 18-team conference; the Bay Area tandem would create a quartet and push membership to 20.

The newcomers would not join the conference at full shares of the broadcast revenue, which total approximately $65 million per school per year.

Instead, they likely would join with revenue shares of approximately 50% compared to their peers, including USC and UCLA.

Even $30 million in annual media revenue from the Big Ten might exceed the cash headed their way by remaining in the Pac-12 under Kliavkoff’s proposed plan.