Jul 17, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; SEC commissioner Greg Sankey  talks with the media during SEC Media Days at Grand Hyatt. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Sankey: SEC not ‘reaching’ for any more schools

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said Tuesday that his league is not aiming to add any more member institutions amid the latest round of realignment.

The SEC will welcome Texas and Oklahoma in 2024, a domino initially toppled in 2021 that caused a massive shakeup of the college sports landscape. Two years later, the Pac-12 faces a likely collapse, once eight of the 12 members leave for the Big Ten and Big 12.

Sankey admitted to a “tinge of sadness,” if not necessarily regret.

“I take responsibility where we’ve made moves,” Sankey told “The Paul Finebaum Show” on Tuesday. “But there was something different last week about the questions around the existence of the Pac-12 Conference, given its long and storied history.”

Sankey said his conference, which will stand at 16 schools as of next year, isn’t actively searching for more members.

There have been behind-the-scenes conversations regarding the recent changes elsewhere around the country. But a videoconference last week with SEC presidents and chancellors revealed a “really strong alignment with that group, very clear that there’s not something out there that we should be reaching for or engaging in,” Sankey said.

Last month the Big 12 agreed to add Colorado, which in turn led Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to follow while a Pac-12 media rights negotiation dragged on. The Big Ten swooped in to add Oregon and Washington, one year after plucking UCLA and Southern California from the Pac-12 and the Los Angeles media market.

Sankey said it doesn’t bother him that the Big Ten now stretches from New Jersey to California.

“We don’t need to be in four time zones to generate interest on the West Coast or really across the globe, and so that’s been a hallmark,” Sankey said. “Who knows what will happen, and that’s where I go back to one of my original statements: We’re always going to be attentive to what’s happening around us. And perhaps there’ll be some opportunity, but it needs to be a lot of philosophical alignment. And it’s not something where we’re actively out recruiting institutions right now.”

All of the change has left uncertainty over what the next move may be. The Atlantic Coast Conference has been linked to Cal, Stanford and SMU by multiple media reports.

There is also the question of the “Power Five” versus “Group of Five” conference structure if the Pac-12 dissolves. The College Football Playoff is supposed to expand to 12 teams in 2024, and the commissioners (plus outgoing Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick) agreed to a model wherein the six highest-ranked conference champions will qualify, plus the next six at-large teams in the rankings.

If the “Power Five” becomes a “Power Four” — or smaller — that model could be revisited.

“I think it’s wise for us to take a step back and reconsider what the format might look like given these changes and circumstances,” Sankey said. “We’ve not met on that, I’ve not had any meaningful conversations, but I think we have to acknowledge that it is on everyone’s mind pending the outcome of some of these additional membership movement pieces.”

–Field Level Media

ASU hosts the Sun Devils' first day of football practice at the Kajikawa Practice fields on July 31, 2023, in Tempe.

Reports: Arizona State, Utah aim for move to Big 12

The Pac-12 continued its run of bad news on Friday when Utah and Arizona State applied for membership with the Big 12.

A meeting between the schools and Big 12 presidents and chancellors was scheduled for later in the evening, multiple outlets reported.

Oregon and Washington were closing in on approval to join the Big Ten, Arizona is well on its way to the Big 12 and Colorado already announced plans to be part of the Big 12 next season.

UCLA and Southern California began the exodus with their announcement last year to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024.

The four remaining Pac-12 schools, Washington State, Oregon State, Cal and Stanford, are left to consider their options.

–Field Level Media

Jul 21, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Washington State Cougars coach Jake Dickert speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Resorts World Las Vegas. tMandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State disappointed by Pac-12 peers, planning for future

Washington State is in danger of losing its place in a power conference with the Pac-12 literally falling apart this week.

Located in remote Pullman, Wash., the school is an outsider in the conference realignment game. It was banking on its fellow Pac-12 schools sticking together and reloading in the wake of the departures of Southern California and UCLA.

But instead, Colorado and Arizona are leaving for the Big 12, Arizona State and Utah have applied for admission to the Big 12 and Oregon and Washington are on the verge of leaving for the Big Ten.

Cougars president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun are disturbed with the actions of the other programs.

“We are disappointed with the recent decisions by some of our Pac-12 peers,” the joint statement from Schulz and Chun said. “While we had hoped that our membership would remain together, this outcome was always a possibility, and we have been working diligently to determine what is next for Washington State Athletics. We’ve prepared for numerous scenarios, including our current situation.

“With exceptional student-athletes, a strong Cougar tradition and incredible support from our fans, donors and alumni, we will chart the best path forward together.”

Washington’s impending move to the Big Ten hurts the most, as the Apple Cup football rivalry between the two schools is perhaps the premier college event in the state each year.

Earlier this week, Cougars football coach Jake Dickert sharply criticized the realignment landscape and the effect it will have on longtime regional rivalries.

“The old question of, ‘How long would it take TV money to destroy college football?’ Maybe we’re here,” Dickert told reporters. “To think, even remotely, five years ago the Pac-12 would be in this position, it’s unthinkable to think that we’re here today. And to think that local rivalries are at risk … to me, is unbelievable.”

Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford and Cal would be the Pac-12’s four remaining members if the rest of the departures become official.

The Cougars could be forced to take a step downward and consider a move to the Mountain West, a league that includes San Diego State, Boise State, Colorado State among others. San Diego State had been vying to join the Pac-12 before the latest round of turmoil.

–Field Level Media

Jul 21, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Colorado Buffaloes defensive coordinator Charles Kelly during Pac-12 Media Day at Resorts World Las Vegas. tMandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Pac-12 could lose Colorado to Big 12

Colorado could be one day away from committing to rejoin the Big 12, according to multiple reports.

ESPN and 247 Sports reported a meeting of the Colorado University Board of Regents on Wednesday was followed with a second meeting set for Thursday where the discussed move from the Pac-12 was on the agenda.

Losing the Buffaloes to the Big 12 would be another significant hit for the Pac-12. USC and UCLA are in their final year of competition in the conference, joining the Big Ten in 2024.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said last week he wasn’t concerned about losing schools to other conferences.

“Our schools are committed to each other and to the Pac-12,” Kliavkoff said at media days in Las Vegas.

The Big 12 admitted it planned to expand further, with Texas and Oklahoma leaving next year for the Southeastern Conference.

The Big 12 added BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston for the current year and commissioner Brett Yormark said this month his expansion plan included getting to 14 teams. With Colorado potentially in the fold, the Big 12 would be at 13 schools. Yormark said he was willing “to disrupt” by adding to the conference.

Colorado was a founding member of the Big 12 in 1996 and also part of the original Big 8. CU left to join the Pac-12 in 2011.

–Field Level Media

Jul 12, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian is interviewed during Big 12 football media day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Sarkisian: Texas’ final season in Big 12 ‘won’t be awkward’

For one season, the Big 12 will carry 14 members — four incoming and two outgoing.

If you think that the commingling of Texas and Oklahoma with BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF would make for an uncomfortable yearlong dinner party, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian disagrees.

“It won’t be awkward for us,” Sarkisian said Wednesday at Big 12 Media Days. “I can’t speak for anybody else. It won’t be awkward for us.

“We’ve got a roster full of players who quite frankly came to the University of Texas to try to win a Big 12 Championship, and we’ve got one more opportunity to do that, and I think our guys are focused on that. And so it won’t be awkward from our end, but like I said, I can’t speak for everybody else.”

Texas and Oklahoma will depart for the SEC in 2024, but in the meantime the Longhorns were picked to win the Big 12 in the preseason media poll, edging defending champion Kansas State.

The Longhorns have gone 13 years and counting since last winning a conference title, the 2009 Big 12 banner. The storied program has only been to one of the past six Big 12 championship games since the game was re-instituted in 2017.

So Sarkisian was effusive in praising his players for being motivated by the here and now, not the SEC move.

“I know there’s been so much talk about the SEC and what’s happening in 2024, but I think one thing that I love about this team that we have this year is their focus on 2023 and this opportunity we have here in the Big 12,” Sarkisian said. “It’s going to be a heck of a season, great competition.”

While Sarkisian aimed to keep things positive in his remarks to the media, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy appeared bothered by Texas being voted atop the poll, wondering if the voting had been based on “the last 50 years” instead of the present day.

“I think it’s pretty clear and easy to say, hey, we’re going to get everybody’s best shot every Saturday,” Sarkisian said.

The Longhorns lost high-powered running back tandem Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson to the NFL, but the offense is expected to be strong behind Quinn Ewers at quarterback, Georgia transfer Adonai Mitchell at wide receiver and others.

“I know a lot is made of the players that we’ve brought in, but we’ve got a lot of veteran players that came to the University of Texas to win a championship,” Sarkisian said. “They bought into a new coach, a new coaching staff, a new style of play, a new culture and inevitably they’re leaders on our team now, and they get a chance going into some of them their final season to compete for a Big 12 Championship.”

Texas’ Big 12 slate will begin Sept. 23 with a trip to Baylor. The Longhorns will conclude the regular season and say goodbye to the Big 12 by playing another in-state rival, Texas Tech, on Nov. 24 in Austin.

“I hope (the Texas Tech game) carries extra weight because hopefully we’re competing to get into the championship game,” Sarkisian said. “But the reality of it is, hey, we’ve had some longstanding games with a lot of teams in the Big 12, and we’re going to embrace every opportunity we get this year.”

–Field Level Media

July 12, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; The Big 12 Championship Trophy on display during the first day of Big 12 Media Days in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, July 12, 2023.  Mandatory Credit: Sara Diggins-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 commish on further expansion: ‘We have a plan’

As the Big 12 braces for the loss of Oklahoma and Texas, commissioner Brett Yormark understandably reset the narrative at the conference football media days in Dallas on Wednesday.

“I feel like I’ve been talking about expansion for a year now. When I said we were open for business last year, I think people took that as, ‘My God, this guy is new and he wants to go and disrupt’ … I guess, in some respects.

“Open for business was that we were going to explore every and all possibility to grow revenue, to diversify our conference, and to do things that hadn’t been done before. We did a lot of that.”

The Big 12, which announced the conference championship game would remain on the Dallas Cowboys’ home turf of AT&T Stadium through 2030, welcomes four new programs beginning with the 2023 season. For this season only, the league has 14 teams, as Texas and Oklahoma prepare to jump to the Southeastern Conference next season.

“They have great identity. They’re national brands. They’re a big part of the history of this conference,” Yormark said. “But like I said last year, this conference is bigger than any two schools. We’re in a great place. There’s never been a better time than right now to be involved with this conference, and I’m excited about our future.”

Yormark commended FOX for partnering with the conference and advancing a vision and goal to reach “Gen Z” and “future college students” in a nod to the combination linear and digital media deal.

UCF, Cincinnati, Houston and BYU bring a new look to the league — and expand the market reach of the conference — and make the Big 12 the only Power 5 league with teams in three time zones. Yormark said the ideal makeup of the Big 12 would be to stay at 14 teams even when the Sooners and Longhorns relocate.

“Relative to expansion, I said coming out of our spring business meetings at the Greenbrier that we have a plan, and we have a plan for expansion,” Yormark said, adding he wasn’t prepared to address it any further. “We do have a plan, and hopefully we can execute that plan sooner than later. But as I’ve always said, I love the composition of this conference right now. The excitement the four new members have brought to this conference has been incredible, and if we stay at 12 (teams), we’re perfectly fine with that.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; A general view of the Big 12 Conference logo on the field after the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Oklahoma Sooners at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Big 12 considering bowl game in Mexico

The Big 12 Conference is looking at bringing a bowl game to Monterrey, Mexico, ESPN reported.

The bowl game, reportedly targeted to begin with the 2026 postseason, would be the first in Mexico between two U.S. college football teams.

It would be the second game on the current bowl calendar to take place outside of the U.S., joining the Bahamas Bowl.

The league is said to be still exploring potential sponsors as well as a league pairing for the proposed bowl game.

Big 12 schools are also expected to begin playing exhibition games against local teams in baseball and women’s soccer as part of an overall initiative to develop the league’s footprint south of the border, per the report.

–Field Level Media

Dec 3, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark watches the game between the TCU Horned Frogs and the Kansas State Wildcats at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Commish: Big 12 has ‘a plan’ for expansion

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark told reporters Friday that the league has “a plan” to approach another expansion of its membership.

The Big 12 is preparing to welcome BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF into the fold in 2023-24. When Texas and Oklahoma depart for the SEC, the league will be back to its size of 12 member institutions.

But reports from multiple media outlets have linked Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Memphis to the Big 12 as potential additions, along with UConn and Gonzaga as basketball-only options.

Yormark addressed the situation with the media via video conference from the league’s spring meeting at the Greenbrier Resort in West Sulphur Springs, W.V.

“As I’ve said all along, we have an appetite to be a national conference in our makeup from coast to coast, and we do believe in the upside of basketball moving forward as a collective group,” Yormark said. “That being said, we love our current composition, love the four new schools that are coming in next month. However, if the opportunity presents itself to create value, we will pursue it.”

The Big 12 has emerged as the premier basketball conference in college sports in recent years, with Baylor and Kansas winning the national title in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and other schools like Kansas State and TCU competitive in the NCAA Tournament.

But Yormark and his peers know conference realignment is fueled by the money from football in particular.

“We do see the upside in basketball moving forward for all the right reasons,” Yormark said without mentioning any specific schools. “We think it’s undervalued and there’s a chance for us to double down as the No. 1 basketball conference in America, but football is the driver and we all know that.

“As we think about the future and ways to create value,” he added, “there is always that option to decouple basketball from football to see if there’s further value we can create for the conference.”

Colorado was a member of the Big 12 from 1996 through 2011 before leaving for the Pac-12. With that conference still struggling to complete a media rights deal, Colorado returning to the Big 12 has become an option. The league has had “substantive” talks with Colorado, recent reports said.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; A general view of the Big 12 Conference logo on the field after the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Oklahoma Sooners at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 schools to hold conference-wide pro day in 2024

The Big 12 and the NFL will debut the Big 12 Pro Day in 2024, which will assemble the pro hopefuls in one spot for “state of the art medical and player skill assessments.”

The conference and NFL announced the event in a news release issued Wednesday.

The inaugural event will be held next spring at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. It will replace the individual on-campus pro days and will include a job fair and “non-football career networking opportunities for Big 12 student-athletes,” per the release.

It will be closed to the public, though the public may attend the adjacent Big 12 Fan Fest and watch NFL Network’s coverage from outside the facility.

“The first-of-its-kind Big 12 Pro Day will provide our student-athletes an opportunity to showcase their talent and skill as they turn their NFL dreams into reality,” Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said. “Through this partnership with the NFL, Big 12 student-athletes will receive national media exposure across NFL Network and NFL Media platforms. We are thrilled to partner with the NFL to host this Pro Day, and we look forward to creating a special experience for our student-athletes.”

The Big 12 will expand from 10 to 14 teams for the 2023 season as BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF join the league.

Texas and Oklahoma will depart the conference before the start of the 2024-25 academic year and join the Southeastern Conference.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2022; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders speaks during a press conference at the Arrow Touchdown Club. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado regents to meet to discuss Pac-12 troubles

Colorado’s board of regents will meet in a special session on Wednesday with questions about the future of the Pac-12 swirling amid its inability to secure a lucrative television rights contract.

The board will meet in executive session with the agenda topic listed as “Legal advice on a specific matter — athletics update on PAC 12.”

ESPN reported that the board is expected to discuss the television negotiations.

The special meeting comes following a recent Yahoo report that said the Big 12 has reached out to Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State to determine their level of interest in jumping to that conference.

Power-conference shuffling has been ongoing since mid-2021, when Texas and Oklahoma announced their intentions to leave the Big 12 in favor of the Southeastern Conference. The Big 12 tapped into new markets by moving to add BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.

The pending exit of Southern California and UCLA for the Big Ten has left the Pac-12 vulnerable as it hasn’t been able to secure a deal without teams in the Los Angeles market.

Colorado left the Big 12 for the Pac-12 in the 2011 academic year. Its football program, now led by coach Deion Sanders, is poised to regain prominence on the national landscape.

–Field Level Media