UCLA is officially heading to the Big Ten after receiving approval from the University of California regents Wednesday.
More than five months after the Bruins, along with the USC Trojans, announced they would leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, the UC board of regents chair and UCOP president recommended allowing UCLA to continue its move to the Big Ten in a special meeting Wednesday on UCLA’s campus. The board of regents approved the move by a vote of 11-5.
So now, the Pac-12 is officially on death’s door, and the Big 12 can put the final nail in the coffin.
Don’t Blame the Big 12 For How We Got Here
Before we go any further, let me begin by saying none of what is happening in college sports is because of the Big 12 Conference. The Big 12 has nearly been destroyed and left for dead on multiple occasions over the past decade or so.
The Big 12 Conference has simply had to be reactionary to fight for its survival. And now, the league is poised to be in a very strong position when the dust settles on this next round of realignment. There’s no doubt that losing Texas and Oklahoma is a blow, no one here will try to convince you otherwise. But the additions of UCF, Houston, Cincinnati and BYU are outstanding teams to bring into the fold who are targeted to specific and strong regions, along with providing national brands (specifically, BYU).
So, if the next move in conference realignment comes from the Big 12 Conference and effectively ends the Pac-12 as a Power 5 league, none of this will be the fault of the Big 12. It will have been the fault of the SEC and Big Ten, who got the ball rolling on conference realignment each and every time it has happened.
What’s Your Move, Yormark?
Brett Yormark clearly has a vision for this league and it’s bigger than the 12 teams that will be a part of this conference in 2025 and beyond. He’s flirted with Gonzaga. I’ve made the case on why I don’t think adding Gonzaga to the Big 12 makes any sense.
In college sports, it’s a zero-sum game. The pie can’t grow. So the best move for Brett Yormark and the Big 12 is to do what needs to be done to put an end to the Pac-12 as a power league once and for all.
Who should he go after?
I’ve made the case for the Four Corner schools in Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado. They’re prime for the taking. But Utah’s AD has recently claimed, “We are not leaving.” However, if the writing is on the wall, let’s see how quickly the Utes realized they don’t want to end up back in the Mountain West as their in-state rival BYU moves up to a Power 5 Conference.
And Colorado apparently views the Big 12 as a “JUCO league”, so they are probably not the first target for the league, although I would welcome the former Big 12 member back to the conference.
Hello, Grand Canyon State
Where all this should begin is with the Arizona schools. They have seemed most ripe for the picking since July when USC and UCLA announced they would be bailing on the Pac-12.
Let’s go back to July when 247Sports’ Jason Scheer, who covers Arizona for the site, joined SicEm365 radio and had some interesting things to say about where the Wildcats currently stand.
“I feel comfortable saying that the Arizona Administration would like to be in the Big 12 right now,” Scheer told SicEm365. “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.“
Yes, that was five months ago, however the Wildcats have always seemed like the team most willing to take a serious look at the Big 12. And if I’m the Big 12, I bring in the Wildcats regardless of who else may want to come along with them.
Something tells me that if one more domino falls, it all collapses, so having an odd-number of teams, which I don’t think would last all that long, would not be of huge concern, because eventually that “next” team, or teams, would come along.
Look to Arizona, that’s where this all begins, which means it’s where things end for the Pac-12 Conference. And the biggest winner in that development would be the Big 12 Conference.
And it won’t be their fault.