The Pac-12 (and college football) is collapsing

It’s been a week since USC and UCLA announced they would join the Big Ten in 2024, and the dust has yet to settle on the potential ramifications their departures will have.

Now the Pac-12 is scrambling to save itself amid rumors that Oregon may be joining the Big Ten and a merger with the Big 12 is also being discussed.

Schools such as Arizona State and Utah should be fine either way, while programs such as Oregon State and Cal could face different fates.

The reality is that the Pac-12 has been on a downward trend for years. Many will blame former commissioner Larry Scott and his failure to make the conference relevant with their other four major leagues.

Exposure to the college football playoffs has been an uphill battle due to less interest from fans who stay up late to indulge in Pac-12 football on a Saturday night, while programs such as Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington just haven’t always been good. enough to warrant national attention.

Many will also point to Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC as the first dominoes to fall in what has been a major shift in the college football landscape. The alliance formed between the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 last year now seems to have been nothing more than fertile ground for much of the same aspirations the SEC had: to grow.

Much has been said about what the future of the sport will look like, as if the transfer portal and NIL deals weren’t already enough to worry about. We are talking about the NCAA finally being reduced to three super-conferences, with the dissolution of the Pac-12, the Big 12 or the ACC.

Key phrases such as “new world of college sports” and “fast-changing sports media” were thrown around frequently, mostly by schools themselves to declare themselves winners.

However, there are no real winners in this mess.

A big part of what made college football so great was the tradition-steeped amateur appeal. Things like the Rose Bowl (which will soon cease to exist in the classic idea, ironically, due to the Big Ten) and college football rivalries that date back decades can now be tossed by the wayside in favor of the television contracts and broadcasting rights. .

Of course, if there are winners, networks like ESPN and Fox can claim to be. The greed that propelled a college football playoff (and it’s likely expansion to come) wasn’t going to suddenly evaporate.

People (including myself) will continue to consume the sport in large quantities. The love for the sport will not disappear overnight despite the new world of college football we are entering. Right now, the product we’ve been waiting for months can’t come soon enough.

Touchdowns will be scored. Upheavals will take place. The ensuing pandemonium on any given Saturday will continue to entertain millions.

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Yet, in a world now replete with multi-million dollar NIL deals, players effectively entering free agency and what looks like historically proud parts of the sport abandoned, it’s hard to imagine what the real future of the game on the road.

Would we see an upheaval similar to the Appalachian State upset that brought down Michigan in the Big House a few years later? How far are we looking for a Rose Bowl after Utah-Ohio State gave us one for the ages?

Confetti will still fall at the end of each season. Championship jerseys will still be in print, and while a doomsday scenario has been featured in this piece, the sun will surely rise the next morning.

The winners will always come out of this ordeal, whether it’s the 21-year-old quarterback with the MVP trophy or the network executive who just lined his pocket with a few extra million dollars.

However, for people like you and me, there’s no way to say for sure that there are any real winners from recent events. Time will tell, but the clock does not seem favorable for what was once a coveted part of life across the country.


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