With every passing hour since the Los Angeles metro area picked itself up and relocated to America’s heartland comes a new rumor about what’s next for Utah athletics and the PAC-12 at large. With contradicting information coming from all directions and a dizzying array of misinformation, it’s time to sort out the plausible from the implausible in the first of what could be many editions of “Conference Realignment Rumors, Speculation and Theories”.
PAC-12/ACC Discussing “Loose Partnership”
Rumors, speculation and theories aside, the PAC-12 has released sporadic press releases during this turmoil, confirming there is an active effort being made to salvage the conference by exploring expansion opportunities as well as negotiating a new media rights deal. Beyond those vague updates, there has been very little talk regarding which schools the PAC may target. Because the conference has historically set a high standard for academics while also showing a preference for larger media markets, the list of prospective candidates sits at roughly zero, so its no wonder that the biggest rumor surrounding any potential expansion doesn’t really involve expansion at all, rather a “loose partnership” with east coast counterpart, the ACC.
While the specifics of what this “loose partnership” could entail have not been made clear, reports suggest any partnership would include a championship game between the two conferences to be played in Las Vegas.
The most glaring issue with this proposal is it doesn’t seem to have any formal or legally binding document attached to it, and in this cutthroat world, a gentleman’s agreement simply won’t be enough. If the endgame is superconfernces, an outright merger between the PAC and ACC would be more logical, otherwise, the most lucrative schools could easily be poached by the SEC in the same way the BIG 10 gutted the PAC. And speaking of SEC...
Utes to the SEC?
While the notion of Utah joining the almighty SEC may seem far-flung at best, where there is smoke, there’s usually fire and this rumor is getting hot, so let's break it down.
John Canzano, one of the most trusted voices in the PAC-12 sphere, has reported that Nike co-founder and legendary University of Oregon booster, Phil Knight, has his eyes set on either the BIG 10 or the SEC for his alma mater. Knight of course isn’t capable of just snapping his fingers and willing his every desire into existence, but he can certainly open doors to make meetings happen. What does any of this have to do with Utah?
Most will brush this off as baseless rumor milling, however, “heartlessute” is a longtime commenter in Ute-centric message boards with a reputable track record that warrants giving this a closer look. If the goal is to expand the SEC into all four time zones, this would effectively mean Oregon and Washington would be defecting to the SEC with two schools from the Four Corners region following suit. If this rumor were to play out, an SEC division that includes the likes of Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and LSU isn’t completely unreasonable to imagine when regionality is dead. Not only that, but it would be one helluva fun option, especially when looking at our final biggest rumor of the week...defecting outright to the BIG XII.
Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State Meeting With BIG XII...Maybe
Over the long holiday weekend, multiple reports sprung up that the Four Corner schools would be meeting with BIG XII officials on July 5th, with later reports suggesting the BIG XII was aggressively targeting a total of six PAC-12 schools, including Oregon and UW. By all accounts, that meeting likely never took place, and instead, the PAC-12 released a statement that morning confirming the conference was in the process of renegotiating its current media rights deal. Whether or not this supposed meeting was ever actually planned or was possibly shelved while commissioner George Kliavkoff scrambles to come up with a plan to keep the 10 remaining members on board may never be known, but for now, any talks of Utah reuniting with BYU in their new conference should be taken with a grain of salt.