Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
I've talked with more than half of the Pac-12 Conference athletic directors since the defection of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten was announced.
Maybe I'm naive, but none of them sound imminently concerned about the Pac-12 being further poached. Not two weeks ago. And not earlier this week. But I reached out to one of the South Division ADs on Friday to check in anyway. In the course of conversation, I asked whether the Big 12 had ever made contact.
Was that ever a thing?
Is it still?
The answer came back: "We're focused on our task, working with incumbent media, and other nine schools, that I don't have time nor attention for the Big 12 noise."
What about the University of Arizona?
Are they a candidate to be poached?
"They are right there with us," the AD told me.
Again, I could be a sucker. But I'm here to serve as a conduit between the entities I cover and my readers. I'm only going to give you sourced, in-depth reporting and analysis. I'll tell you what I know. And right now, I have a multitude of Pac-12 ADs all essentially saying the same thing — they are galvanized and believe the conference has good options. Like you, I'm eager to learn what those are.
It may prove that Oregon, Washington and Stanford one day become targets of another round of expansion in the Big Ten. But nothing feels imminent and nobody is sitting by the telephone, waiting to see what happens.
There is some strategizing going on, however.
The SEC and Big Ten members are going to receive distributions from their conferences that dwarf what Pac-12 members receive. The SEC distributed nearly $55 million to each member in the last fiscal cycle (2021). That figure will grow, year over year. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 doled out $33.6 million to each member in 2020. And estimates of the Big Ten's future distributions fall between $70 million to $100 million a year.
How will the Pac-12 members stay competitive?
Said one North Division AD: "Like we always have. We'll just have to spend a larger percentage of what we receive on football and men's basketball. We'll make a larger investment, percentage-wise. That's what UCLA was going to have to do if it stayed in the conference. That's what we'll all do — go heavy in football — because that's where the biggest returns will always be."
The University of Oregon, for example, spent $24.5 million on football in the last fiscal year (2021). That figure was skewed by the pandemic, but I'm curious to see if the Ducks and some other contenders ramp up spending in pursuit of the College Football Playoff. Also, I'll follow where Oregon, and other Pac-12 universities, might cut back — Olympic sports.
Had UCLA stayed in the Pac-12, it would have been faced with that exact dilemma. I don't think the Bruins would have dropped their prestigious track and field program. But I doubt UCLA would have funded the program as well as it will after the defection to the Big Ten.
Read more of columnist John Canzano exclusively at JohnCanzano.com.