The Pac-12 will be unrecognizable in 2024 following the departures of conference staples USC and UCLA, but that does not mean it will fold. Commissioner George Kliavkoff is meeting with SMU Wednesday as he continues to search for alternatives to outright obliteration.
The Pac-12 is in desperate need of more members if they are to successfully negotiate a new media rights deal, per Brett McMurphy of Action Network. San Diego State is also on Kliavkoff’s radar for expansion targets. Both programs make geographic sense and are competitive in the big NCAA moneymaker sports of football and basketball.
The challenges facing the conference will persist without its two biggest draws, but it is still possible to drum up national interest with these potential new additions. SMU football has enjoyed four consecutive winning seasons in the American Athletic Conference and would add good depth to a Pac-12 that was fairly deep last season. Things should remain competitive even without the hype or prestige of the Los Angeles schools.
The basketball Mustangs have done a little dancing in the last decade with multiple trips to the NCAA Tournament and recent appearances in the NIT. San Diego State basketball has been the pinnacle of the Mountain West, winning 20 games or more in 15 of the last 16 seasons. The Aztecs have built up a renown hoops tradition that should even be interesting enough to keep ESPN analyst Bill Walton invested in non-UCLA games.
Pac-12 football and basketball fans should not brace themselves for the apocalypse yet. Kliavkoff knows what is at stake. There is too much money involved to just hide in the bunker. The Pac-12 can be reborn and rebranded.
Moves need to be made fast, though, or the conference risks being an unfortunate punchline for the foreseeable future.