PHOENIX - The Big 12 announced Friday night it is adding Arizona, Arizona State and Utah as members next year, completing its raid of the Pac-12.
The latest blow to the Pac-12, came just hours after the Big Ten welcomed Oregon and Washington to grow its new West Coast wing next year.
A little more than a year ago, Southern California and UCLA announced they were joining the Big Ten in 2024. With the Ducks and Huskies, too, the Big Ten will be an 18-team conference.
The Big 12 has been targeting the Pac-12’s so-called Four Corner state schools for months, with Colorado making the jump last week.
The additions of the Arizona schools and Utah give the Big 12 16 schools, stretching from Florida to Arizona. The Pac-12 is now down to four members beyond this year: Stanford, California, Oregon State and Washington State.
ASU and UArizona joined the Pac-12 in 1978.
Officials speak out on realignment
ASU President Michael Crow
"We are excited for this new chapter, a move that is necessary to remain competitive in top-tier Division 1 athletics," said Crow, in a statement posted to ASU's website. "We are joining a premier athletic conference and bringing with us programs on the rise, our rich traditions and history, and the metro Phoenix media market. We’re in a good spot, and we are pleased to be with UArizona and Utah in the move."
UArizona President Robert C. Robbins
Robbins wrote a letter to the university community on the move, which was posted to the school's website.
The letter reads:
Dear Students and Colleagues,
I am pleased to share that the University of Arizona will join the Big 12 Conference in all sports beginning in the 2024-2025 academic year.
As many of you know, athletics serves as the front porch for the University of Arizona, as it is a rallying point for alumni and fans and creates pride in our community both here in Arizona and around the world. Arizona Athletics is positioned well for long-term success, as our goal always was to secure a bright future for our student-athletes, fans and the entire university community.
I want to thank Athletics Director Dave Heeke for his partnership. We share a deep sense of pride in the University of Arizona, with its national presence and championship legacy that resonates throughout college athletics, and I look forward to his continued leadership in the years to come. Our move to the Big 12 Conference will continue to raise the university's profile by increasing visibility, growing our reach across the country and around the globe, expanding our pool of prospective students, providing more resources to support our student-athletes, and presenting them with greater NIL prospects. We look forward to beginning a new era next year with fresh opportunities for athletics to fulfill its Wildcat Way mission to develop academic, athletic and life champions.
Whether current students or employees, alumni, or community members, the Wildcat Family is passionate and strong, and I am grateful for its amazing and unwavering support of our student-athletes and programs. Arizona will continue to compete for championships on this expanded stage in front of our fans in a variety of old and new footprints, and I look forward to sharing in those experiences with you.
I want to thank the Pac-12 Conference for being an excellent home for the University of Arizona for so many years and for reliably supporting our university. We will enjoy our final year as a Pac-12 institution, along with Big 12-bound members Arizona State, Utah and Colorado, while looking forward to our future as part of the Big 12 Conference next summer.
Bear Down, and Go Cats!
Officials with the conference posted a statement to its website, which reads:
"Today’s news is incredibly disappointing for student-athletes, fans, alumni and staff of the Pac-12 who cherish the over 100-year history, tradition and rivalries of the Conference of Champions. We remain focused on securing the best possible future for each of our member universities."
"We are thrilled to welcome Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12," said Commissioner Brett Yormark. "The Conference is gaining three premier institutions both academically and athletically, and the entire Big 12 looks forward to working alongside their presidents, athletic directors, student-athletes and administrators," said Commissioner Brett Yormark, in a statement.
Media expert reacts to latest developments
"We could be looking back at some point in the future and call today the Black Friday of the Pac-12," said Ed Desser.
Desser, who has negotiated more than 70 rights deals and advised 30 professional sports teams on their media rights, said the Pac-12's collapse is a sign of the times for college conferences.
"Increasingly, colleges have become more professional. In fact, the gap between college and pro has really shrunk to the point there really in the same businesses. It may be a different flavor of ice cream, but it's all ice cream," said Desser. "The media opportunities have grown, from the advent of cable and more recently, the internet. It has created additional demand that has driven up the value."
Desser said the landscape of college sports is changing. He said it is becoming more like a business every day.
"We’re dealing with schools that are faced ever-growing expenses, and they feel the need to compete not only on the field and floor, but also in revenue generation," said Desser. "You want money for your conference, you want money for your school, and you want visibility."
The regional aspect of college conferences, according to Desser, are also fading.
"The historical clustering of schools in a geographic vicinity is no longer necessary. It's not essential to be able to take a bus to one location for a road game. The money is now significant enough that people can afford to fly," said Desser.
Desser said he believes the realignment might leave an impact that will last for years to come.
"We may end up with 20 to 25 meaningful football programs, and they will play their rivals, and everything else might just become griss for the mill," said Desser.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.