Pac-12 says it will ‘immediately’ pursue expansion after completing media rights deal

Now down to nine members following the departure of Colorado to the Big 12, the Pac-12 said Thursday night that it plans to “embrace expansion opportunities” once it finalizes its new media rights deal.

The quest for a new media rights deal has been an ongoing saga for the last year. On multiple occasions, the conference has signaled that it was close to securing a TV contract that would provide stability for its future. It has yet to materialize, and Colorado decided to sign on with the Big 12 — which already has a new deal with ESPN and Fox finalized — rather than wait around.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said at the conference’s media day event last Friday in Las Vegas that the league needed to complete its media rights deal before it could start exploring expansion opportunities of its own. The current deal expires in July 2024.

Based on the conference’s statement Thursday night, that is still the order of operations the Pac-12 plans to follow.

“We are focused on concluding our media rights deal and securing our continued success and growth,” the statement says. “Immediately following the conclusion of our media rights deal, we will embrace expansion opportunities and bring new fans, markets, excitement and value to the Pac-12.”

Kliavkoff also said last Friday that he was not concerned about losing any members to the Big 12. Six days later, that’s exactly what happened.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks at the NCAA college football Pac-12 media day Friday, July 21, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Lucas Peltier)

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks at the NCAA college football Pac-12 media day Friday, July 21, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Lucas Peltier)

Hours after Colorado’s defection to the Big 12 became official, the Pac-12 said that CU’s decision will not “disrupt” its commitment to carrying on into the future.

“The Pac-12 is comprised of world-leading universities and athletic programs who share a commitment to developing the next generation of leaders, supporting student-athletes’ academic and athletic excellence and broad-based athletic success. We remain committed to our shared values and to continuing to invest in our student-athletes. Today’s decision by the University of Colorado has done nothing to disrupt that commitment,” the statement says.

Like Colorado to the Big 12, UCLA and USC will depart the Pac-12 for the Big Ten ahead of the 2024 season. That would leave the Pac-12 with just nine members.

Kliavkoff said the Pac-12 conference office completed its due diligence on possible expansion candidates “many months ago,” with the focus narrowed down to a select number of schools. Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger has reported that San Diego State and SMU are among the schools targeted by the Pac-12 in expansion talks.

At the same time, the Pac-12 has to worry about keeping its remaining nine members on board. In addition to Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah are believed to be the other Pac-12 schools coveted by the Big 12. Arizona was thought to be the most realistic expansion partner from that remaining group.