Big 12, Pac-12 won’t partner as talks officially end

Talks of a partnership between the Big 12 and the Pac-12, which had been discussed at length for the past two weeks, have officially ended, sources told ESPN.

Officials from the Big 12 told Pac-12 officials Monday that they were no longer interested in exploring the partnership, sources said.

A Big 12 source said the deal didn’t work out for the conference for “a variety of reasons,” including the fact that a potential deal wouldn’t have generated much revenue for the league. “It just didn’t work,” the source said.

There have been at least three Zoom calls between top league officials from the Big 12 and the Pac-12, and other calls between other factions of the leagues — including the Legal Department — to discuss various options. The extent of the talks had not previously been reported.

A Pac-12 source briefed on the talks said the Big 12 expressed interest on Friday in potentially exploring a full merger. The Big 12 source said of the three options the Pac-12 envisages — pooling rights, a scheduling scheme, or the leagues combined entirely — the only scenario that could have potential value given the sheer number of schools and population areas was a complete merger of the leagues.

The Pac-12 source stated that the Big 12 were interested in this option. A Big 12 source said the Big 12 needed more time to further explore this option, which they did over the weekend, and decided not to explore any options further.

The Pac-12 source said Pac-12 is skeptical about the full merger due to the leagues’ media rights expiring at different times. A Big 12 source countered that the Pac-12 had suggested ways around this.

“Because Big 12 media rights cannot be negotiated until 2024, Pac-12 schools have no motivation to join the Big 12,” said a Pac-12 source. “The Pac-12 has announced that they remain together and are in the midst of media rights negotiations.”

The Pac-12 explored all options after UCLA and USC left the league without two of their top brands and without a foothold in the Los Angeles media market. The league has just two full years left on its stunning television contract and Commissioner George Kliavkoff has been busy finding creative ways to generate revenue.

That included talks with the ACC over some sort of planning agreement, but sources have told ESPN that the financial reality of this potential partnership will also underwhelm them.

The Pac-12’s expiring contract and few opportunities to generate revenue continue to perpetuate the notion that the Pac-12 is the most vulnerable of the Power 5 leagues. As the Big Ten snag two of the league’s top properties, significantly reducing the potential value of the upcoming television contract, the reality of the Pac-12 tasked with fending off would-be poachers could emerge.

Both Oregon and Washington competed in the College Football Playoffs and are not bound by any rights waivers after the league’s TV deal ended. Also, through backchannels, the Big 12 has been monitoring the potential to add Pac-12 schools in Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado that are a former Big 12 member.

New Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has claimed the league is “open to business” and the conference has stressed that it plans to aggressively treat potential newcomers.

“We will leave no stone unturned to increase the value of the conference,” Yormark said on media day. He added: “There is no higher priority than to best position the Big 12 for the upcoming multimedia rights negotiations. Everything we do has to create momentum for these negotiations.”

On July 5, the Pac-12 announced that its board of directors had authorized the league to immediately begin negotiations on its next media rights deal. Because of this, the league explored diverse and creative options to increase revenue through partnerships. Big 12, Pac-12 won’t partner as talks officially end

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