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Merger With Mountain West Could Make Most Sense For Scrambling Pac-12

  • Cal, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington State are the four remaining Pac-12 schools.
  • Partnering with Mountain West teams could provide short term stability.
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Speculation about the Pac-12’s future has been rampant since Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Utah, and Washington made formal decisions to depart the conference after this academic year, leaving just four schools remaining.

Those schools — The University of California, Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington State — are tasked with forging new paths, as they now have no full conference schedule in 2024, and bowls with Pac-12 affiliations are exploring other options.

Cal’s regents will meet Tuesday to discuss its future affiliation amid reports that the ACC could look to add both Cal and Stanford. But one other idea also picking up steam is a sort of merger between the Pac-12 and Mountain West Conference. 

Cal, Stanford, OSU, and WSU could opt to join the 12 Mountain West teams to form a 16-team football conference that could operate under the Pac-12 name. That scenario could play out if the four remaining Pac-12 schools can’t secure moves of their own to the likes of the Big 12 or ACC. 

An unlikely alternative would be to handpick other West Coast schools like Boise State and San Diego State to bring the Pac-12 back up to at least 10 teams — Mountain West schools have exit fees of more than $30 million if they leave in 2024, and no new Pac-12 media deal would conceivably cover the costs to make that worth the move.

The Mountain West’s current media rights deal is with CBS and Fox, which are paying a combined $45 million annually through 2026 — a fee that would likely be renegotiated if schools were added.

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