By Ken Reed

Well, greed has killed one of the most historic and tradition-rich conferences in college sports. The Pac-12, for all intents and purposes, is dead.

College sports is truly a mess if a classic conference like the 108-year-old Pac-12 can’t survive.

Yes, four schools remain in what is now the Pac-4 (Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State) following the raids by the Big Ten and Big 12 (Washington and Oregon move to the Big Ten; Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah have left for the Big 12).

The remaining four schools must expand, find a new conference home, or try and go the independent route.

Here are a few random thoughts on this latest conference realignment fiasco, the demise of the Pac-12, and the profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) mentality that drives big-time college sports:

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: College presidents, athletic directors and coaches need to stop calling the players “student-athletes.” The hypocrisy behind that term is monumental. Big-time college sports have nothing to do with education.

If I hear one more coach, AD, or president cry in Congress, or anywhere else, how name, image and likeness (NIL) and the transfer portal are ruining the game, I think I’ll puke. The conferences and schools involved in this latest round of realignment exhibited unabashed greed in killing a long-time conference and tearing apart historic rivalries. That’s what’s really ruining college sports.

How can it possibly be in the best interests of “student-athletes” in baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis, lacrosse, and other sports to fly 3000 miles for games and matches?

Follow the money. It’s the Wild Wild West in college sports because the NCAA is toothless and the media guys (primarily Fox in this case) are the sheriffs.

In essence, it wasn’t the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, or ACC that put a fork in the Pac-12. It was Fox.

It appears Fox’s goal was to destroy the Pac-12 and grab several Western universities for its college sports portfolio. Fox didn’t make an offer for the Pac-12 media rights when it had a chance, but somehow came up with the money to lure two Pac-12 properties to the Big Ten and four to the Big 12. The Big Ten and Big 12 are two conferences in which Fox has a big chunk of the media rights.

The ACC, which has an ESPN contract, reportedly was talking to the Pac 12 about a merger in the days before the Pac-12 fell apart. Fox, learning of this, swooped in and grabbed Oregon and Washington to keep those schools away from the ACC/ESPN.

One more sign of Fox’s power: The TV giant shot down the Big 10 president’s plan to add Stanford and Cal, along with Oregon and Washington. Fox didn’t want the two prestigious West Coast academic institutions because they determined those two schools didn’t move the ratings needle enough.

Killing 100+-year-old conferences can hardly be what’s best for college athletics. We’re clearly moving to an endpoint of two super conferences like the AFC and NFC in professional football. Basically, it will professional college football on Saturdays.

From a financial perspective, we’re down to the Big Two already: The Big Ten and SEC. The Big 12 and ACC will hang in there for a while but the financial gap between those conferences and the Big Ten and SEC will be too large for those conferences to compete long-term. That’s why the ACC’s Florida State is publicly saying they will do anything to get out of their ACC media rights contract in order to compete with Big Ten and SEC schools both financially and on the field.

In a recent column, USA Today columnist Dan Wolken might have had the best summation of where we are in college athletics today:

“The life’s work of clueless college presidents, soulless conference commissioners and greedy athletics administrators will be the ruin of tradition, the mockery of common sense and the thirst to keep score in dollars above all other metrics.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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