PAC 12

Pac-12 has been 'fractured' by Big Ten, Big 12 conference realignment, expansion chatter

Jeremy Cluff
Arizona Republic
View Comments
The Pac-12 Conference has been "fractured" over college realignment and expansion talk, according to one insider, and Arizona and ASU could be on different sides of the divide.

Earlier this month, Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson told The Arizona Republic that the remaining 10 teams in the Pac-12 conference were "united" after USC and UCLA's decision to leave for the Big Ten.

An Arizona Wildcats athletics insider painted a very different picture of the conference in a recent interview, calling the conference "fractured" by conference realignment talk.

"That’s why the Pac-12 is here in the first place," 247Sports' Jason Scheer told 365 Sports this week. "The Pac-12 could’ve expanded years ago and basically decided it didn’t need to. Schools like Washington, Oregon, Colorado appears to be one of them. They think they’re better than the Big 12, that staying together in the Pac-10 or whatever it may be, with the academics and all that, they can make an argument that they’re better than the Big 12.

“Then there are schools like Arizona that feel like there’s benefits to the Big 12 as well. I absolutely think it’s a thought process, and it has fractured the conference.”

More:Are Pac-12 schools ASU, Arizona a package deal in college conference realignment?

Scheer's comments are in stark contrast to Anderson's, who recently told the Arizona Republic's Michelle Gardner that "everything out there has been overblown and exaggerated and lacking any credibility" in conference realignment speculation for the Pac-12.

"We're on solid footing, got a solid plan moving forward," Anderson said. "The schools remaining are united and we're going to be strong moving forward. We don't have to do anything just out of panic or desperation."

Speculation continues to swirl around the future of the Pac-12 with USC and UCLA's impending departure for the Big Ten and Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren added to that speculation this week when he said that more conference expansion could be coming.

"The Big Ten conference was born out of a desire to be bold," Warren said. "There are two types of people in the world, they look at change as a problem or see it as an opportunity.

"I'm embracing change, I'm going to be very aggressive, I've been that way my entire career and I just want to make sure we build an environment because our student-athletes, fans and universities deserve that."

He continued: "I get asked every day, 'What's next?'," Warren said. "It may include future expansion, but it will be done for the right reasons, at the right time, with our students' academic and athletic empowerment at the center.

"We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic, it will add additional value to our conference and it will provide a platform to have our student-athletes to be put on a larger platform so they can build their careers."

More:ASU, Arizona not among Pac-12 schools being evaluated for Big Ten expansion, report says

The speculation about the future of the conference increased this week when CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported that the Big Ten is "evaluating the worthiness" of adding California, Oregon, Stanford and Washington to expand its conference.

Those four Pac-12 schools potentially joining USC and UCLA in the Big Ten would leave Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State as the six remaining teams in the Pac-12, potentially collapsing the conference, Dodd wrote.

 "Such a move would strip the Pac-12 of half its members," Dodd wrote. "Sources indicate the Pac-12 would most likely have to reform to stay afloat with invitations to the likes of San Diego State and Fresno State. One label put on that grouping was 'Mountain West Plus.'"

In his report, Dodd indicated that some remaining Pac-12 schools could potentially end up in the Big 12.

"The Pac-12 could be in danger on two fronts," he wrote. "The Big 12 is also zeroing on westward expansion with Arizona, at least, according to sources. There is no indication if Arizona State would follow, though CBS Sports previously reported that ASU, Colorado and Utah were the Big 12's targets. San Diego State is in play for both the Pac-12 and Big 12, sources indicate."

More:Pac-12 conference realignment: ASU's Michael Crow, Arizona's Robert C. Robbins could be key

Imagine the ASU and Arizona football teams competing in separate conferences.

Scheer seemed to echo some of that thinking in his comments to 365 Sports, at least in terms of the Arizona Wildcats.

“I feel comfortable saying that the Arizona administration would like to be in the Big 12 right now,” Scheer said. “There are aspects to that at play. They don’t want to go alone. If Utah comes with them, that would be probably the strongest option. If Utah says ‘We’ll go to the Big 12 with you,’ that becomes a situation where they both jump at once.

“If Arizona is going to need another school to come with it, I think they’re willing to see if the Pac-12 can make it worth it for them to stay with a certain financial offer. But right now, let’s say the negotiating window closed and the offers weren’t coming in, Arizona would be gone. I think they’re probably the most active school, from what I understand and what I’ve heard, in looking towards the Big 12.“

As for the "fracture" among the remaining Pac-12 schools, Scheer said: “There is absolutely a group of schools in the conference that feel that way (reacting to a Denver Post columnist saying that Colorado administration felt the Big 12 was a 'JUCO league'). I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say a JUCO league, but I absolutely think that there are schools in the (Pac-12) conference that are arrogant."

More:Pac-12 football TV ratings: Ranking teams by viewership amid conference realignment rumors

Could Arizona and Arizona State be on different sides of this possible "fracture" in the Pac-12?

Scheer interestingly shared some light on the topic in a different interview with 365 Sports earlier this month, when talking about the possibility of ASU and Arizona possibly ending up in different conferences as a result of college realignment.

When he was asked about Arizona and ASU being tied together in the same conference, Scheer said: "I haven't been able to get a clear answer about that. Every time I asked, it's kind of, 'We're gonna do what's best for ourselves.' My gut tells me that they are tied. I would be really surprised if Arizona moves without ASU or vice versa. It feels like Arizona is kind of driving the train a little bit by being a little more aggressive than ASU, but I would be really surprised that there's a scenario where they don't move together. You got to think, also, once a couple of these schools move in the Pac-12, let's say it's just Arizona and Colorado that decide to move, the other schools have to follow. They'll have no choice. And even if ASU wants to look around or kind of see the landscape or wait a bit, they really won't have that option. And so to me, these schools are pretty tied together. I'd be surprised if they broke up."

He added: "It's tough to say. I don't think so," about Arizona moving without ASU. "I really don't, because football kind of rules the decision-making process, and the reality is Arizona football hasn't been attractive in quite a while. And, it's not like ASU football is super attractive, but it's kind of the deal where, similar to the Big Ten wanting USC and UCLA, you want those together to get the whole L.A. market. If you're the Big 12 you want those Arizona schools together, and that's why I think it'd be difficult for Arizona to move. Now, if ASU puts its foot down and says, 'We're not going anywhere,' it could get really interesting. I feel confident in saying that if it was totally up to UofA, and what they want, to do with no outside forces, it would be the Big 12 all the way."

More:Pac-12 Conference, leadership slammed amid USC, UCLA Big Ten negotiations news

Reach Jeremy Cluff at jeremy.cluff@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jeremy_Cluff.

Support local journalism: Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

View Comments