Report: Big 12 has reached out to CU about a return

Mar 3, 2023, 11:31 AM
Colorado football...
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Thirteen years ago, CU dealt the Big 12 a thunderbolt by announcing its departure for what was then the PAC-10 conference.

Now, the school could be in play for a return to its old home.

According to a report from The Athletic, the Big 12 has had contact with four Pac-12 schools: CU, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State.

This comes in the wake of rumblings that the PAC-12 could add members. San Diego State and SMU are two schools whose names have arisen often in talks.

CU played in the Big 12 from 1996 through 2010. But its connection to that conference dates back to when it joined the Big 12’s predecessor, the Big Eight, in 1947. Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State remain in the Big 12 from the old and renowned octet that died when four Texas schools joined to form the new conference in 1996.

CU left during a period when the Big 12 found itself poached; Texas A&M and Missouri joined the SEC, while Nebraska went to the Big Ten. The conference added West Virginia and TCU to settle as a 10-team group.

Last year, Oklahoma and Texas announced their departures for the SEC. Subsequently, the Big 12 pivoted and plucked Houston, Central Florida and Cincinnati from the American Athletic Conference and BYU from the West Coast Conference (and independent status in football).

Meanwhile, the PAC-12 is in a state of crisis. Its two Los Angeles schools, USC and UCLA, will join the Big Ten next year. Its television contracts are expiring, and the reported suitors and offers for its media rights — including the ION Television network, best known for its marathon blocks of NCIS and Criminal Minds re-runs — are curious at best.

And given the Pac-12’s diminished state, the financial terms are likely to be underwhelming compared to the SEC and Big Ten.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 already has its broadcast contracts lined up. The conference extended its deals with ESPN and Fox last year, even after it learned of the departures of Oklahoma and Texas. According to reports last year, the contracts were expected to include clauses that provided for an increase in rights if the Big 12 added schools.

So, one can’t blame Pac-12 schools for seeking a life raft. And the Big XII makes some degree of geographic sense for these four schools, considering that BYU will start play this fall. A western flank of CU, Utah, BYU, Arizona, Arizona State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU in what would be a 16-team colossus actually makes some sense.

That said, at some point in such an arrangement the Buffs would have a conference game against UCF. Both schools have a “C” and a “U” in their abbreviations, at least. But it would be quite a change to go from playing conference matchups in Seattle to instead decamping for Orlando.

As it stands, Orlando is 1,569 miles from Boulder. But even Seattle, home of the University of Washington, is 1,003 miles away, too.

That’s major college sports in 2023. And in an environment in which myriad schools not in the Big Ten or SEC are looking for a more profitable port in a storm, the Big 12 could make sense if the PAC-12 can’t pull itself together in the coming weeks and months.



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