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Did Deion Sanders Kill the Pac-12?

The Colorado Buffaloes and Deion Sanders were the first domino to fall, but they may have effectively ended the Pac-12 conference.

The Pac-12 conference is falling apart, and Deion Sanders might have killed it.

The Colorado Buffaloes have gone to the Big 12, while several of their old conference brethren may also be bolting. Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington look to be the next schools on the realignment chopping block and the few remaining Pac-12 members left could be joining them or headed to a conference to be named later.

Both the Washington and Arizona boards of regents (which oversees Arizona University and ASU) held emergency meetings Thursday night, and exiting the "Conference of Champions" was reportedly the number one item on their agendas. The Wildcats wish to join the growing, greener pastures of the Big 12, as Arizona State and Utah also reportedly eye the move, while Washington and Oregon seem destined for the newest iteration of the Big 10 West.

College football insider Brett McMurphy with The Action Network tweeted on Friday afternoon that the Ducks and Huskies had already made the decision to bolt from the conference.

Sanders and the Buffaloes were the first domino to fall earlier this week, and Colorado's Pac-12 departure has shoved the 105-year-old league into the deadly dance with oncoming traffic that is conference realignment. Life moves pretty fast in the realignment game, and it was only a few years ago that the Big 12 thought of itself as a potentially dying conference. Their breadwinning brands of Texas and Oklahoma announced they were leaving for the SEC, and college football fans and pundits alike wondered which schools could also leave, with several rumored to be going to the Pac-12.

A Dark Day For the Pac-12 Conference

Pac-12 commissioner speaks at an event.

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However, tables were turned this week as Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff had his turn at saving a dying conference. A combination of oversight about which schools truly valued their pacific coast league and a litany of poor decisions from ex-commissioner Larry Scott sees the Pac-12 as the only Power 5 league currently without a long-term broadcast deal. The conference's current broadcasting rights are up in 2024, and a negotiation this week with Apple TV that would have seen teams paid in an incentive structure tied to generating new subscribers could not be agreed upon by all members.

Seeing big TV money vanish in front of their eyes may have been the last straw for several current universities. These schools want to be on national television, and more accurately they want the check that comes with it. ESPN and FOX are all but publishing the finer points of the conference realignment agenda and they have been for years.

If Arizona, ASU, and Utah leave for the Big 12, is there any path forward for the saving the remaining Pac-12 schools? It doesn't look good as Oregon and Washington are now reportedly headed to the Big Ten, which is once again open for business in adding more schools to their newly coast-to-coast conference. The likes of Oregon State, Washington State, Cal, and Stanford could easily be left without a Power 5 conference home after a Pac-12 collapse. Schools with long, proud college football histories whose fanbases now wonder if they are destined for decades in the college football desert of a Group of Five conference, or even independence. A proposed merger with the Mountain West or grabbing SMU, San Diego State, Houston and others as replacements are the latest rumors that would see something resembling the PAC-12 remain standing.

The news of Oregon and Washington talking with Big Ten brass about membership sure sounds like a Pac-12 death rattle, and fans in Pullman and Corvallis will continue their justified Chicken Little routine. Earlier this week, when asked what he thought about Colorado's leaving the league Oregon head coach Dan Lanning said, "I'm trying to remember what they won to affect this conference and I don't remember."

While Deion Sanders and Colorado may not have won a conference title during their time in the PAC-12, Oregon and the other schools remaining in the league will surely remember the affects of the Buffaloes' decision for years to come.

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