The four remaining Pac-12 schools still aboard for next season — California, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State — have options if they are looking for another conference.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is exploring the possibility of adding the West Coast schools, with an emphasis on California and Stanford in the San Francisco Bay Area, a person with knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the ACC was not making its internal discussion public and the conversations were still in early stages.
The person said the ACC’s presidents are expected to dig into the merits of expansion again Tuesday and that the conference does not plan to draw out making a decision.
The American Athletic Conference also has interest in expanding West and adding all four Pac-12 teams, a person with direct knowledge of that league’s internal discussion told the AP on condition of anonymity. The AAC has schools as far West as the Dallas area.
The Mountain West is the most logical spot for the Pac-12 schools to land geographically if they wanted to leave their former conference behind altogether. A person familiar with discussions in that league told the AP that its leaders have been strategizing the possibility of trying to add Pac-12 schools since last week.
The MWC and the AAC are so-called Group of Five conferences, where adding Power Five schools would be considered an upgrade in most cases.
[Washington State President Kirk] Schulz said he and athletic director Pat Chun have been in contact with multiple conferences and remain in regular contact with the remaining Pac-12 schools.
“These efforts continued through the weekend — and will continue until we find a suitable home for Washington State athletics,” Schulz wrote.
The ACC, however, is a fellow Power Five conference that seems like a strange option for the Pac-12 orphans. It has 14 members, none farther West than Louisville. But while the cross-country travel would be challenging, Stanford and Cal do fit the profile of a league that has the likes of Duke, Wake Forest and Boston College.
The ACC has been exploring ways to bring in more revenue to keep up with the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference and Florida State leaders have insisted the ACC must do something because of what they say is an unfavorable media rights contract. Adding the Northern California schools could extend the footprint of the ACC Network and possibly increase its value.
Existing ACC could also add to their coffers by bringing in new schools at less than a full share of media rights revenue, the way the Big Ten added Washington and Oregon.
As for Cal and Stanford, with the Big Ten and Big 12 seemingly done expanding, they don’t appear to have another Power Five option.
There is also the possibility that the four remaining Pac-12 schools stay together, and try to lure others to join. Six schools is the minimum required by the NCAA to operate a conference in the short-term.
See here for the background. Rice is now in the American Athletic Conference, so the idea of being in the same conference as Stanford and Cal intrigues me. The MWC makes a lot more sense, but financially it’s almost certainly better for these schools to either recruit more schools – maybe merge with the MWC – or suck it up and join the ACC as their extremely western division. Stanford and Cal may have more options than OSU and WSU do, with Stanford potentially going independent. Or maybe the ACC just takes those two, while OSU and WSU land up in the MWC or the AAC.
Like I said, this stuff is getting weird. With the 2023 season about to begin and these schools needing to figure out what they’re doing, I expect something to happen quickly. Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports have more. The second segment of this week’s Hang Up And Listen podcast, about 24 minutes in, discusses this all in some depth as well.