Arizona, Arizona State and Utah have formally applied for membership to the Big 12, three people familiar with the Big 12’s discussions told The Athletic.
The Big 12’s board of presidents and chancellors are meeting Friday night, the sources confirmed, and are expected to accept the three new members. ESPN initially reported that Arizona State and Utah had applied for membership.
The three schools would join Colorado in becoming Big 12 members in 2024 at the conclusion of the Pac-12’s current media rights contract, turning the Big 12 into a 16-member conference and leaving the Pac-12 with Cal, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State as its four remaining members.
Oregon and Washington deciding Friday morning they’ll leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten forced a change of heart for leadership at the three schools after their efforts to stick together and save the conference and opened the door for the Big 12 to pursue agreements with all three.
After convincing Colorado to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big 12 last week, commissioner Brett Yormark and the Big 12 continued their determined pursuit of Arizona, Arizona State and Utah. The Big 12 has been focused on westward expansion since last summer, after the Pac-12 lost USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, and is expected to stop at 16 future members for now after it lands all of the so-called “Four Corners” schools.
Arizona has long been a priority target for the Big 12, but Arizona president Robert C. Robbins needed to see the terms of a proposed Pac-12 media rights deal before making a decision about his school’s future. Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff reportedly presented league members with a number of media rights deal options Tuesday, including a primarily subscription-based deal with Apple, according to ESPN. The Big 12’s board already voted to approve Arizona as a new member during a meeting Thursday, the sources said.
Arizona State president Michael Crow and university leadership have consistently expressed loyalty to the Pac-12 and no interest in changing leagues, and Utah athletic director Mark Harlan reaffirmed his commitment to staying in the conference during the Pac-12’s media day in Las Vegas on July 21.
Oregon and Washington bolting for the Big Ten ultimately left them with no alternatives. A move to the Big 12, which will deliver members an average of $31.7 million per year from its media rights deal with ESPN and Fox, would offer more stability and financial security.
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