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5 universities announce departure from Pac-12 Conference on Friday, leaving its future in question

The landscape of college sports continues its drastic change.

The Pac-12 Conference is down to only four schools remaining as the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and the University of Utah announced Friday they are leaving to join the Big 12 Conference.

“We are thrilled to welcome Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12,” conference commissioner Brett Yormark said in a statement on Friday. “The Conference is gaining three premier institutions both academically and athletically, and the entire Big 12 looks forward to working alongside their presidents, athletic directors, student-athletes and administrators.”

The University of Oregon and the University of Washington will officially leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten Conference starting in 2024, both schools announced earlier Friday.

The decision by the schools to change conferences coincides with the end of the Pac 12’s media rights deal with ESPN and FOX, and marks the latest shift in the collegiate sports landscape jumpstarted by UCLA and USC announcing last year they would be leaving for the Big Ten at the start of the 2024-25 season.

The decision to leave after the conclusion of the Pac-12’s media rights deal saves the schools from having to pay any exit fee.

“Today’s news is incredibly disappointing for our student-athletes, fans, alumni and staff of the Pac-12 who cherish the over 100-year history, tradition and rivalries of the Conference of Champions,” the Pac-12 said in a statement. “We remain focused on securing the best possible future for each of our member universities.”

As part of the decision for the move, Ray Anderson, Arizona State vice president for university athletics, highlighted the financial package and stability of the Big 12.

“The financial package is strong. The stability of the Big 12 is strong. We are ready, and the timing is right,” said Anderson. “The exposure and visibility as well as the resources from the conference will help us compete for championships. From enhancing our ability to recruit Texas for football to the Big 12’s strength in basketball, good days are ahead.”

With the impending addition of the four schools expected ahead of the 2024 college football season, the Big 12 is set to expand from 12 teams to 16 teams, marking a bounce back for the conference after the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas announced they were leaving to join the SEC earlier this year.

“We are excited for this new chapter, a move that is necessary to remain competitive in top-tier Division 1 athletics,” said Arizona State president Michael Crow. “We are joining a premier athletic conference and bringing with us programs on the rise, our rich traditions and history, and the metro Phoenix media market. We’re in a good spot, and we are pleased to be with UArizona and Utah in the move.”

University of Utah president Taylor Randall thanked the Pac-12 in a statement, saying, “I am grateful for all of the hard work my Pac-12 Conference colleagues invested in an effort to find solutions to keep the conference whole and provide a pathway forward to benefit all of our students, fans and communities.

“Ultimately, stronger forces within national collegiate athletics and the greater media landscape brought us to today’s decision. I am hopeful the relationships we have made over the past 12 years within the Pac-12 remain strong.”

Oregon, UW head to Big Ten

The Big Ten Council of presidents/chancellors voted unanimously on Friday to approve Oregon and Washington to the conference effective August 2, 2024.

“We are excited to welcome the University of Oregon and the University of Washington to the Big Ten Conference,” Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti said in a statement. “We look forward to building long-lasting relationships with the universities, administrators and staff, student-athletes, coaches and fans. Both institutions feature a combination of academic and athletic excellence that will prove a great fit for our future.”

There have now been four schools to leave the Pac-12 conference for the Big Ten since last year. The two southern California powerhouses – USC and UCLA – both announced they would join the Big Ten for the start of the 2024-2025 season. Last month, Colorado announced the school would leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12.

“Accepting membership into the Big Ten Conference is a transformational opportunity for the University of Oregon to change the short and long-term trajectory of our university and athletics department,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said in a statement.

“The stability and exposure of joining the Big Ten is of great benefit to the University of Oregon, and we are grateful to the Big Ten presidents and chancellors for accepting our application to join the conference. We look forward to the opportunity for our student-athletes to compete in this conference, which includes many of the best programs in the nation in every sport.”

Both schools were charter members of the Pac-12 dating back to 1915.

“We have tremendous respect and gratitude for the Pac-12, its treasured history and traditions. At the same time, the college athletics landscape has changed dramatically in recent years,” Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen said in a statement. “The Big Ten’s history of athletic and academic success and long-term stability best positions our teams for future success, and we are energized at the opportunity to compete at the highest level against some of the best programs in the country.”

Washington State University, Oregon State University, UC Berkeley and Stanford University are the four remaining Pac-12 schools which have not announced any conference changes.

WSU president Kirk Schulz and director of athletics Pat Chun said in a statement, “We are disappointed with the recent decisions by some of our Pac-12 peers.”

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