WILLIAMS: Colorado to the Big 12 was telegraphed months ago

You don’t hire Deion Sanders as your school’s head football coach if you are ultimately going to choose “academic prestige” over athletics and television revenue. 


That’s what Colorado did by hiring the unconventional “Prime” to head perhaps what has been the worst Power-5 football program in America, to clean house and help push forward a new era of “recruiting” in college athletics. 

Hiring Coach (don’t call him “Deion”) Sanders was a sign as to where this was heading.

When you talk to academia folks out west, boy, they sure do think a lot of themselves. They turn their nose down at the Big 12. They refer to us as the “truck stop league” and ridiculously make jokes about Big 12 fans actually wanting to attend football games, because of the lack of oceanfront property in our states, you know.

We actually like football (such a crime), unlike most of the remaining Pac-12 schools following UCLA and USC’s sudden and shocking bolt from the league a summer ago. 

Schools like Arizona State and Utah really wanted the Pac-12 thing to work, and I totally get it. Hell, Utah spent a decade and a half building its athletic department just to get into the Pac-12. They don’t want to up and leave now! I think even had the money been right, Colorado would have stayed. It’s not an easy thing to move conferences. But the money was never going to be there (keep reading).

But other schools actually care about sports. Colorado cares. The Buffs, who left the Big 12 for not-so greener pastures in 2011, showed by hiring “Prime” that they indeed care greatly about a sport it won a national championship in back in 1990. 

And my hunch is that now that the Buffs are reportedly soon to be on their way back home, others from the Pac-12 will see the writing on the wall too. 

It’s a great time to be a Cyclone Fanatic Premium subscriber. 

What blows my mind about this whole thing …

Is how horribly wrong so many pundits were about all of this. 

There is one aspect of the Pac-12’s perceive strength that so many folks never could grasp, and it is quite simple. The Pac-12 Conference did not deliver the late night time window alone. 

It belonged to the schools. Hear me out… 

When Brett Yormark signed the Big 12’s new television contract with ESPN and FOX, he was able to include what is called a pro rata. This ensured the Big 12 that if it added any current Power-5 schools to its league, the networks would pay the league the same amount per addition, that the current schools are receiving. 

FOX has had little to no interest in the Pac-12 because USC and UCLA are going to the Big Ten, which FOX owns the most of television wise starting this season. ESPN is no longer a part of the Big Ten’s television contract, meaning that the world-wide leader is out of luck when it comes to putting the Los Angeles schools on “after dark.”

So why hasn’t ESPN pursued the Pac-12?

Why buy the entire league when you can acquire a handful of teams that you actually want (sorry Oregon State and Washington State), saving hundreds of millions of dollars along the way?

ESPN (and FOX for that matter) can get the “after dark” window considerably cheaper via an expanded Big 12 compared to buying up all of the Pac-12’s inventory. Plus, it’s the teams that the networks actually want. This is why the Pac-12 was doomed after USC and UCLA left. There just wasn’t enough inventory left of schools that actually cared about football. 

Say whatever you want about the Big 12. The fans care. That’s good for networks as we continue to move into the digitalization of the college television product. It’s a much better deal now than say 15 years ago, when television markets were all that mattered (Rutgers got a hell of a deal on that one). 

It’s crazy how this has all worked out, but the Big 12 has never been in a better position as a conference than it is at this very moment.