Fortuna Files: Can the Pac-12 complete one last Hail Mary?
The odds are stacked against the Pac-12 rebuilding itself. But there remains hope in certain corners of the conference that not all is lost just yet.
What if we wrote off the Pac-12 too soon? What if the conference of champions became the conference of comebacks?
That’s the wish, at least, of Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes, who spoke to both OregonLive.com and JohnCanzano.com on Wednesday and stressed that keeping the Pac-12 together was a priority, albeit a decision that needs action soon.
Just how would that work, though?
It all starts with Stanford and Cal, who are still very much open for business elsewhere. Without the Cardinal and the Bears, there is no hope for Pac-12 survival. But the one thing those four schools have working in their favor is the benefit of time.
Not their time; they need to get on the same page immediately if this is ever going to happen. But if they can do that, there is a little bit of runway to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Yes, NCAA rules say that an FBS conference needs eight members. But there is a two-year grace period if a conference drops below eight teams. That is an important distinction, as it is unlikely that anyone from the Mountain West Conference or American Athletic Conference is leaving either of those leagues within the next year.
The MWC’s exit fee is $34 million ahead of next year, and $17 million ahead of 2025. The AAC’s is $10 million if you provide 27 months’ notice, but steeper on shorter notice. Cincinnati, Houston and UCF just agreed to $18 million apiece in exit fees to leave for the Big 12, but those were negotiated amid a two-year timeline. The buyout to leave in less than a year’s time is believed to be in the $25 to $30 million range, according to folks briefed on the situation.
So, for argument’s sake, let’s say that the four remaining Pac-12 schools move forward together. What would they be working with?