PAC12 Had TV Offer In ’22 (After USC/UCLA News), But ESPN Walked After A Ridiculous Counter

PAC-12 logos on a football and helmet at media days in Las Vegas.

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The PAC-12 is in dire straits as they attempt to navigate through conference realignment. The Conference of Champions has been hit with major attrition as eight current members plan to leave in 2024.

The movement has clouded the future of the once-prestigious league as the four remaining members weigh their options. An interesting tidbit has now been reported which helped lead to the PAC-12’s fall.

As has been widely noted throughout the offseason, the conference’s ultimate demise came due to its pending media rights deal. In the summer of 2022, USC and UCLA made the decision to leave the PAC-12 come 2024.

That shifted control of the Los Angeles market to the Big Ten, which helped the league secure a massive $1 billion television contract with FOX, NBC, and CBS.

Still, the PAC was left with 10 teams, including notable football programs Utah, Washington, and Oregon, as well as basketball power Arizona.

Then, another departure.

Colorado recently informed the league of its intention to return to the Big XII next season, leaving nine schools.

PAC-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff has been hopeful throughout this process as he assured remaining members that a suitable TV deal would be worked out, but the Buffs’ announcement intensified those negotiations. With another school gone, the PAC-12 needed to move quickly in order to prevent any further attrition.

The league had seemingly swung and missed with the major television networks, leaving streaming service Apple to arise as the best potential partner.

Apple offered the league a reported $25 million per team along with incentives that could raise revenue. With that deal, Apple would cover production costs though individual athletic departments would be responsible for selling annual streaming subscriptions at $100 each.

Arizona president Robert Robbins compared that to “selling candy bars for Little League,” though he and the remaining university heads planned to sign a Grant of Rights agreement last Friday to keep a nine-team PAC intact.

Then, disaster.

Oregon and Washington blew up the deal with announcements that they’d join USC and UCLA in the Big Ten. With that, a domino effect began as Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah bolted for the Big XII.

Now, just Cal, Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington State remain. But could it have been prevented?

ESPN offered PAC-12 a deal last fall, which the league ridiculously countered.

PAC-12 insider John Canzano writes that ESPN offered the league $30 million per team back in the fall of 2022. This came after news of USC and UCLA’s departures to the Big Ten, and it’s more than what’s currently being offered by Apple.

The conference heads told commissioner Kliavkoff to counter at $50 million per team. ESPN’s response? A hard no.

The Pac-12 got an offer of $30 million per school from ESPN in the fall of 2022. It included all the conference’s media rights, including the Pac-12 Network. But the conference presidents and chancellors believed they could do much better.

The board instructed Kliavkoff to reject ESPN’s proposal and make a lopsided counteroffer.

Source to me: “You know what we told ESPN after their $30 million per-school offer?”

Me: “What?”

Source: “We said we want $50 million per school.”

Me: “What was the ESPN response?”

Source: “Goodbye.”

While those university leaders couldn’t predict that the league would eventually crumble, maybe it would’ve been able to stick together had it taken the ESPN deal.

Hindsight, of course, is always 20/20. We’ll now await the future of the PAC-12 as it attempts to fend off outside conferences from plucking its four remaining members.