Pac-12 presidents 'solely focused' on TV deal expected 'soon'
By Pete Thamel,2023-06-07
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Pac-12 schools still are playing the waiting game for a new television contract.
Arizona president Bobby Robbins on Wednesday said he doesn't expect any decisions concerning conference realignment to be made until Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff brings hard numbers to university presidents.
Robbins said he expects the numbers tied to the conference's upcoming television deal to arrive "soon" as the league enters the final year of its existing deal.
"Each of us will make our own independent analysis," Robbins said at the Future of College Athletics Summit hosted here by the University of Arizona. "My prediction is that we're all going to stay together as a Pac-12. There's 10 of us right now. I'm hopeful that the deal is going to be good enough to keep us together."
Robbins said he's not frustrated that there hasn't been financial clarity on what the television deal could look like. He joked that he's not nervous, based on his career as a surgeon.
"I'm not anxious about this," Robbins said. "I know it's important. I have full confidence we're going to get where we need to be."
He said he expects schools to make decisions on the grant of rights or whether to stay in the Pac-12 in a "quick" time frame after financial realities become clear.
Robbins said he hasn't recently been in touch with Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, but he "continues to talk to everyone" in the realignment space.
He did provide some clarity on any potential move, noting Arizona has the freedom to make a conference move agnostic of what in-state partner Arizona State decides. He cast that notion of a split as unlikely, however, considering his relationship with Arizona State president Michael Crow.
"We don't have to do the same thing," Robbins said. "But President Crow and I are very, very tight. I think it'd be unlikely that we'd be split up."
Robbins, who has been the president at Arizona since 2017, has been publicly confident in the future of the Pac-12. In public statements in March, Robbins said he expected the new Pac-12 deal to be consummated in a few weeks. He reiterated that the reality is that the conference could still finish ahead of deals by the Big 12 and ACC.
"We're not going to get a Big Ten deal or an SEC deal," Robbins said. "... If we win a bronze medal, I think we'll all declare victory and move on."
The uncertainty hovering over the Pac-12 has been amplified by the Big 12's maneuvering to sign a six-year, $2.2 billion dollar television deal with ESPN and Fox that runs through 2031.
The Big 12 wasn't in line for a deal, but the league opened up early negotiations and got a deal done sooner than the Pac-12, despite the Pac-12's existing deal ending a year earlier.
That has left speculation about the future of the Pac-12, as both the desirable linear television windows and available cash for traditional media outlets are perceived to have diminished significantly for the conference.
The flirtations of Colorado with the Big 12 -- with officials from each side meeting in person, sources told ESPN -- have also put Arizona more in focus. The Buffaloes remain the Pac-12's biggest potential flight risk, and if they jump, Arizona will emerge as a logical partner both because of geography and the Wildcats' powerhouse basketball program.
But all of that, Robbins said, remains speculative until Pac-12 presidents see hard numbers from Kliavkoff.
"Right now, I think all 10 of us are solely focused on the deal," Robbins said. "Once we have that, we have degrees of freedom to make informed decisions."