Pac-12: What's next for the college sports conference?

San Francisco, California - After two of the Pac-12 Conference's biggest West Coast programs announced their departure, the future of the conference and its universities sports programs have become uncertain.

Pac 12 Conference Basketball Trophy
Pac 12 Conference Basketball Trophy  © Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

College athletics was hit with one of the biggest bombshells of the decade when two of sports' biggest West Coast programs, USC and UCLA, decided to end their long-standing history with the Pac-12 Conference to join the Big Ten Conference in 2024.

The seismic move was a shocking development that left the Pac-12 Conference fighting for its survival.

Now, with the conference already at stake, it seems a rival conference in a similar position may swoop in to steal away more universities from the ailing league, leaving it to become nothing more than a memory.

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In the quest to refortify their conference after prominent programs in Texas and Oklahoma left for the powerhouse SEC, the Big 12 is looking to add six universities from the already fragile Pac-12, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.

This would create an 18-team "super conference" alignment and eventually end the Pac-12 for good.

The Pac-12 could recruit more universities

The Boise State Broncos celebrate after winning the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament.
The Boise State Broncos celebrate after winning the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament.  © David Becker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

So what does this mean for the Pac-12?

While the complexity of the issue is far more severe than a simple fix can solve, one of the biggest survival options the Pac-12 conference has is to recruit more universities to join the conference.

Currently, there are no schools valuable enough to replace USC or UCLA, but there are a handful of schools like San Diego State, Boise State, and UNLV that can help bolster the conference.

Sooners football land record-setting receiver Eli Merck
College Football Sooners football land record-setting receiver Eli Merck

If the Pac-12 can gain a school back in the Southern California market and add in the Las Vegas market, this would be a huge step forward for the Pac-12.

Today, many major decisions in college athletics are motivated by money. Geographical location, conference rivalries, and loyalty to a conference are dead.

That means that if the Pac-12 can recruit a school in a large money market, the most well-known, well-respected West Coast conference could have a revival.

The Pac-12 could merge with another conference

The Kansas Jayhawks celebrate after winning the Big 12 Conference Championships.
The Kansas Jayhawks celebrate after winning the Big 12 Conference Championships.  © JAMIE SQUIRE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Another possibility that remains on the table for the Pac-12 Conference is to merge with another conference.

If the Pac-12 joins forces with the Big 12 and team up to form the first mega-conference, this could be a major move in the direction many believe college athletics is already heading.

As the Big Ten and SEC keep poaching schools to their already monster-marketing conference, the merge of the Pac-12 and Big 12 could ultimately be a trendsetting move, forming the first of three mega-conferences.

But if the Pac-12 goes forward with a merger, it will leave the ACC to get ravaged by what would be the remaining two mega-conferences, the Big Ten and SEC, in a cold-war bloody fight for the universities and their athletic programs.

Currently, Pac-12 representatives have made no further statements about the future of the conference, but they continue to remain hopeful and competitive to keep the remaining universities on board.

Cover photo: Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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