June 17, 2024

Colorado exploring move to Big 12 from Pac-12 with multiple meetings set this week

Colorado has entered discussions on a move back to the Big 12, according to multiple reports. The University of Colorado held a board meeting Wednesday with another scheduled for Thursday, presumably concerning the potential move. Additionally, the Big 12 has a scheduled meeting of league presidents Wednesday evening with discussion about Colorado’s candidacy to join the league planned as part of the itinerary, sources tell CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd.

The Buffaloes have been considered a potential priority expansion target Big 12 along with the other “Four Corners” schools in the Pac-12: Arizona, Arizona State and Utah. Colorado has held “substantive” talks with the Big 12 multiple times this offseason, multiple sources told Dodd in May, despite publicly saying it desired to remain in the Pac-12 and would not make any decisions until a Pac-12 media rights deal could be reviewed by conference members.

There is no specific timeline for a decision on the part of either Colorado or the Big 12, but CBS Sports has also learned that interest between the parties has increased in recent days. Should the Buffaloes rejoin the Big 12, they would be the only addition to the conference at the present time, sources told CBS Sports.

“I have no comment other than what I said last week,” Colorado athletic director Rick George told Dodd in late May about the school’s potential interest in the Big 12. “We are proud members of the Pac-12. In a perfect world, we’d love to be in the Pac-12, but we also have to do what is right for Colorado at the end of the day.”

Joining the Big Six conference in 1947 and remaining with the expanded league for a span of 63 years, CU was a founding member of the Big 12 in 1996 and remained in the conference until it departed for the Pac-12 ahead of the 2011 season. At the time, many were surprised Colorado left for the Pac-12 at all given its history.

The Big 12 officially added four new members — BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF — on July 1 as a means of rebuilding its conference following the scheduled departures of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC on July 1, 2024. The league will consist of 14 teams for the 2023 season before dropping to 12 in 2024 once UT and OU exit. 

It is believed the Big 12 has been considering further expansion, however, not only making overtures to other Pac-12 programs but also basketball powerhouses like UConn and Gonzaga, as Dodd reported in June. League commissioner Brett Yormark confirmed at Big 12 Media Days earlier this month that he would prefer to remain at 14 teams, which would require the addition of two schools after the Longhorns and Sooners depart.

Yormark also said he admired the branding efforts at Colorado. The Buffaloes made headlines with their football program this offseason by hiring NFL star Deion Sanders as the team’s coach.

Any such move must be handled delicately. Because of legal liability, the Big 12 cannot be seen as initiating interest with Colorado. Protocol dictates that CU would first have to apply for membership after the current Pac-12 media rights expire July 1, 2024.

Multiple sources tell CBS Sports that Sanders supports a move to the Big 12 because the fertile recruiting grounds of Florida Texas — both in the Big 12 footprint — would both open even further for the Buffaloes.

The Pac-12, meanwhile, is at a crossroads. It is about to enter its final season with USC and UCLA before the flagship California schools exit for the Big Ten on July 1, 2024. As such, it has faced difficulties signing a new media rights deal while the Big 12 opened its contract with Fox and ESPN to jump ahead of the Pac-12 in negotiations with their presently shared rightsholders. 

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff met with school officials Wednesday as a means of providing an update on negotiations for a new media rights deal, according to Yahoo Sports. Wednesday’s developments come less than a week after Kliavkoff stood firm behind the conference’s membership at Pac-12 Media Day, a message he has preached since last July. He reiterated that a new media rights deal for the Pac-12 was on the way despite negotiations continuing a year after they were authorized by the conference. 

“Our schools are committed to each other and to the Pac-12,” Kliavkoff said. “We’ll get our media rights deal done, we’ll announce the deal. I think the realignment that’s going on in college athletics will come to an end for this cycle. The truth is we’ve got bigger fish to fry. 

“There are incredible opportunities and also challenges in front of college athletics, and I need to be able to work with all of my colleagues in Division I and particularly in the A5, and we’ll do that. We’ll move past all the bitter squabbling of the last year, and we’ll work together to make college athletics better.”

ESPN first reported Colorado’s internal discussions this week. 

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