UCLA and USC will move to the Big Ten in 2024, creating two super-conferences in college football: The Big Ten and SEC.
The remaining three Power 5 conferences — the Pac-12, Big 12, and ACC — are now tasked with jockeying for survival.
A lucrative media rights package could be key to retaining or even adding schools.
The Pac-12’s media deal is far from impressive. In 2020, the Pac-12 paid out only around $33 million to each school — mostly from media rights, per tax filings.
The deal is up in 2024 — and losing USC and UCLA has been called “a disaster” for TV rights, Front Office Sports previously reported.
The Pac-12 said last week that it is looking for new members. But in order to entice them, it needs a new competitive media rights package.
Here’s what the Pac-12 is up against:
- In 2020, The Big Ten, paid about $54 million to most schools that year.
- Its next media contract could garner up to $1 billion annually — meaning UCLA and USC could reportedly receive $100 million a year in conference payouts.
Now, commissioner George Kliavkoff has already been authorized to begin talks for negotiating its new contract, a peculiar move for a conference that has recently fallen behind. But the Pac-12 doesn’t have a choice.
And since the move also puts the Pac-12’s media rights renegotiation ahead of that of the Big 12 — which is up in 2025 — the conference could at least try to usurp what the Big 12 can offer.
The Big 12 was in a slightly better position than the Pac-12. It distributed about $38 million to each school in 2020, for example.
But last year, it lost two key brands to the SEC — which sent around $45 million that year. Those numbers will only go up, given that the SEC has a gargantuan $3 billion deal starting in 2024.
Without Texas and Oklahoma, the Big 12 lost about half its conference media rights value, former commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Texas Senate last year.
The Big 12 is on the offensive now. It will add four schools, but it’s unclear if those will replace the value lost in media rights. Additionally, the Big 12 is looking to poach Pac-12 members, one report suggested.
Meanwhile, the ACC faces a unique conundrum.
As with the Pac-12, its media rights contract is modest by today’s terms: In 2020, it distributed only about $32 million to schools. But unlike the Pac-12, its contract isn’t up for more than a decade. Unless it finds a way to get out of the contract, the ACC won’t have much to offer.
The conference is reportedly considering a “loose partnership” with the Pac-12, which would include a cross-conference “championship game” in Las Vegas that could increase media value for both parties.
On the other hand, it looks less and less likely that the ACC will entice its sought-after partner Notre Dame, which is only an official member of the ACC for non-football sports. The Fighting Irish could finally be interested in joining a conference that could offer more in payouts than its current deal with NBC, multiple reports have said.