Late final summer time, alternative knocked on the Pac-12’s door. Texas and Oklahoma have been off to the Southeastern Conference, leaving the remaining Big 12 colleges within the mud with no different alternative however to gaze westward for what gave the impression to be an more and more secure “Power Five” convention residence.
Sure, the Pac-12’s soccer product had been down for a decade-plus, largely due to USC’s decline. But the Trojans nonetheless represented a blue blood, flagship program positioned within the nation’s No. 2 media markets. As it was for Texas and Oklahoma within the Big 12, USC’s rooted presence equated to stability. And, within the formation of school sports activities conferences, such a tide can elevate all boats.
First-year Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff was fielding calls from determined Big 12 colleges and had zeroed in on just a few that he felt added sufficient worth to strongly take into account increasing the Pac-12 footprint into America’s Great Plains.
Kliavkoff assembled a committee of three presidents and three athletic administrators to resolve whether or not or to not suggest expansion to the bigger group. The group met on a Zoom name to go over a 20-slide deck. But the Pac-12 was solely about quarter-hour into its hourlong presentation earlier than USC President Carol Folt spoke up.
Folt advised the group that she didn’t perceive why the Pac-12 would develop and expressed shock they have been even speaking about it, based on a number of sources who have been accustomed to the decision however not approved to talk publicly due to the sensitivity of the topic.
“Carol shut it down,” one supply stated.
“She cooled the entire course of,” one other supply stated.
In late August, the Pac-12 introduced it will not develop.
Ten months in a while June 30, USC and UCLA introduced they have been leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten beginning in August 2024, persevering with faculty soccer’s motion towards two superpower conferences that Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC started the earlier summer time.
Now that USC and UCLA are headed for the Chicago-based Big Ten, Stanford, Washington and Oregon have been reported to be among the many subsequent wave of Big Ten targets after precedence Notre Dame, putting the Pac-12 in additional peril.
Meanwhile the Big 12, which banded collectively because the remaining eight colleges added 4 new members, seems poised to poach any Pac-12 colleges with a wandering eye.
The Pac-12 may have added high Big 12 colleges final summer time, positioning itself as one of many high 4 conferences whatever the LA colleges’ long-term intentions. Instead, USC’s unfavorable response mixed with its escape to the Big Ten a yr later, has put the Pac-12 in a precarious spot.
“We’re not going to reply to nameless feedback or rumour,” Folt stated in a press release to The Los Angeles Times.
At the time, there have been clear causes USC wouldn’t need to develop. Within the Pac-12, USC’s leaders weren’t alone in expressing such reservations. Adding members would imply dividing the Pac-12’s already frustratingly small income pot amongst extra palms. And, contemplating USC had not but been invited to the College Football Playoff, including extra competitors inside its personal convention would solely make it tougher to perform that elusive purpose.
At Pac-12 media day Friday, Kliavkoff recalled he was vacationing in Montana together with his household on that surreal Thursday morning when he received an pressing textual content message from a Pac-12 official. Driving in Idaho, he discovered a spot with cellphone reception and pulled over. He rapidly turned the automobile round, feeling blindsided by the information that his Los Angeles linchpins had betrayed their near-century-old relationship with the league and its peer establishments.
Not even a yr into his tenure as Pac-12 Commissioner, Kliavkoff did not have a lot time to make his premier program happier. He was definitely within the means of attempting. Removing the division tie-in to the league’s championship recreation would positively assist USC. But now the Trojans have been gone, with none warning, as Kliavkoff was given no indication of the Trojans’ wanderlust.
USC coach Lincoln Riley stated Friday the college’s openness to evaluating its future convention affiliation was mentioned with him earlier than he took the job in late November.
“I had just a little little bit of a heads up with it,” Riley stated. “We had conversations once I took the job, not particularly in regards to the Big Ten, not about an imminent transfer, however we knew we have been going to have to observe the panorama of what is going on on. You need to be on the forefront, and so I’m glad our individuals have been progressive sufficient to grab what I feel goes to be an important alternative. I definitely perceive the explanations behind it and absolutely help it.”
A yr after the Pac-12 may have seized the second by increasing main into its upcoming media rights negotiations — the league may have added Texas Christian, as an example, so as to add the Dallas-Fort Worth media market to its choices — Kliavkoff is now combating for his league’s future from a a lot much less advantageous place.
Asked Friday at his information convention whether or not USC “misled” him, Kliavkoff stated, “I’m not going to speak about that. We’re going to take the excessive street and never speak about what occurred prior to now.”
Kliavkoff stated the final month has been a “whirlwind.”
“We’ve had two board conferences every week for the final 4 weeks,” Kliavkoff stated. “Looking my colleagues within the eye, understanding their dedication, that their first precedence is ensuring that the Pac-12 survives, thrives and grows and is profitable. They’re dedicated to the convention. I feel the very best factor to do is to ask them about it.”
The pure follow-up given current occasions: Why would Kliavkoff — or anybody in faculty athletics, for that matter — belief anyone else?
Later Friday morning, Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens spoke with a bunch of reporters about his faculty’s scenario. Oregon is the Pac-12’s high remaining soccer model and is presumed to be coveting a spot within the Big Ten. But, with out an invitation in hand, the Ducks haven’t any alternative however to stay it out with the Pac-12 and make the very best of it.
“Your preliminary response is one among private emotion and what it means on your league and for my faculty,” Mullens stated, “however on the finish of the day, what else have been [USC and UCLA] presupposed to do? They’re in a tough place too. I attempt to step again from it.”
It was a media day in contrast to every other in Pac-12 historical past. The occasion, sarcastically, was held on the Novo Theater in downtown LA, and but, USC athletic director Mike Bohn and UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond have been absent for his or her customary appearances to help their soccer coaches and gamers simply miles from their campuses.
For the following two years, the Pac-12 presidents and athletic administrators and coaches will probably be dividing their conferences into two components — one which the Trojans and Bruins might be aware of and one which they’re now barred from becoming a member of due to a battle of curiosity .
Kliavkoff tried to “take the excessive street” Friday in his ready remarks about USC and UCLA, expressing his disappointment however saying “we cherish our relationship with their student-athletes, coaches, workers, college, alumni and followers.”
But, listening to him lay out his displeasure with faculty athletics’ prioritization of cash over athlete welfare, one did not need to marvel the place he was pointing his finger in judgment.
“We must be measuring … our capacity to supply the best stage of athletic competitors to our student-athletes with out pointless journey, time calls for and different burdens on competitors impeding their tutorial success,” Kliavkoff stated.
“We are at a important juncture and the selections we make within the close to future will decide whether or not we head in direction of a world during which a small handful of conferences are taking part in skilled sports activities on the expense of tens of hundreds of educational alternatives.”