Report: Big 12, Pac-12 Partnership Talks Officially End

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Ongoing talks between the Big-12 and Pac-12 concerning a potential partnership have ended, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported Monday night.

Big-12 officials informed the Pac-12 on Monday they are no longer interested in continuing talks after mulling the idea of a possible merger, per Thamel. A Big-12 source told ESPN the deal didn’t work for “a multitude of reasons,” one of which included the notion that a partnership wouldn’t drive much revenue for the league.

The two conferences have been frequently linked as of late in the still-smoldering aftermath of USC and UCLA’s jump to the Big Ten. On July 5, six days after the seismic announcement, CBS Sports reported as many as six Pac-12 schools were involved in “deep discussions” about joining the Big-12.

According to ESPN, top officials from both conferences engaged in “at least three Zoom calls” among a host of other calls “between other factions of the league,” including legal, over the past two weeks. A Pac-12 source informed Thamel that the Big-12 expressed interest on Friday in possibly exploring a full combining of the leagues as opposed to the options of a “scheduling concept” or  “pooling rights.”

The Big-12 reportedly believed a merger would be the only scenario that could have led to an increase in revenue based on the number of schools and populations areas, but ultimately decided not to pursue the deal any further. The report also notes the Pac-12 was skeptical of the idea of a full merger because the leagues’ media deals expire at different times, though a Big-12 source told ESPN the conference expressed an interest in finding other solutions.

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The Pac-12 announced on July 5 its board of directors have authorized the league to immediately start negotiations for its next media rights agreements. The conference’s current media rights deal with Fox and ESPN is currently set to expire in 2024 while the Big-12’s contract with those networks ends in 2025.

“Because the Big 12 media rights can’t be negotiated until 2024, Pac-12 schools have no motivation to join the Big 12,” a Pac-12 source told ESPN. “The Pac-12 has announced that they’re staying together and are in the middle of media rights negotiations.”

News of the Big-12’s decision to withdraw from talks also comes on the heels of new commissioner Brett Yormark’s recent comments that the conference is “open for business.” During media day on July 13, Yormark, who was appointed to the position on June 29, made it abundantly clear that he remains committed to strengthening the league in whatever way possible, including the idea of adding new members.

“One thing is for sure: The Big 12 is open for business,” he said, per Max Olson of The Athletic. We will leave no stone unturned to drive value for the conference.”

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