Ohio State’s decision to call off a home-and-home series with Washington was just the latest blow to the Pac-12 schedule delivered by the Midwestern powers.
Recall that in the fall of 2019, Michigan dropped out of a two-game series with UCLA.
Then the Wolverines pushed back the make-up date for a trip to Seattle – the original game was postponed by COVID – until the 2028 season.
And now the Buckeyes have canceled UW dates in 2024 and 2025.
We’re starting to think the Big Ten can’t be trusted.
Ohio State’s move is, of course, directly related to the recent sack. The Big Ten schedule will become more grueling with the addition of Los Angeles schools in 2024, and the Buckeyes don’t want an unnecessary trip to the West Coast.
The Huskies were “very disappointed” by the news, in the words of athletic director Jen Cohen. And across the Pac-12 footprint, there is justifiable concern about the impact of the realignment on football schedules.
Will road trips to USC and UCLA for conference matchups (starting in 2024) cause Big Ten teams to stop playing non-league games on the West Coast against the remainder in Pac-12 schools?
There are 17 contract clashes between the conferences, starting in 2023.
2028: in Nebraska
2031: against Nebraska
2025: against Minnesota
2028: in Minnesota
2023: against Nebraska
2024: in Nebraska
2026: in the Northwest
2027: vs. Northwest
2029: in the state of Michigan
2030: against Michigan State
2032: against Ohio State
2033: in the state of Ohio
state of oregon
2024: against Purdue
2028: in Wisconsin
2033: against Wisconsin
2028: against Michigan
state of washington
2023: against Wisconsin
(Sources: school websites and FBschedules.com.)
Several games are not in danger. There’s no reason for Nebraska to cancel neighboring Colorado, for example. And Wisconsin will make the trip to Pullman later this year.
Others may be eliminated, with Big Ten teams paying the cancellation penalty (as Ohio State is doing with Washington).
But as with so many issues involving the Pac-12, let’s pause before hitting the panic button.
Five thoughts on the future of football programming after the latest news:
1. We should know a lot more next fall when the Big Ten finalizes its programming rotation for the 2024 season and beyond.
How often will teams visit USC and UCLA, thus reducing the desire to schedule trips to Pac-12 campuses? With nine conference games and 16 teams, there should be windows available.
The deadline will be as important as the rotation itself. Will the Big Ten set the timeline into the 2030s, providing significant clarity on which teams are playing where?
Or will the conference simply hang on a four- to six-year rotation, which would make schools hesitant to book anything long-term?
2. The latest development is further proof that the Pac-12 must not fall back to an eight-game conference schedule. It doesn’t make sense to trade a league game for out-of-conference creampuff that won’t generate ticket sales or TV ratings.
Quality opponent options are being affected with Brigham Young’s entry into the Big 12. (The Cougars no longer need Pac-12 dates to fill an independent schedule.)
If BYU is unavailable and Big Ten teams are scared to commit, attractive opponents for the fourth non-conference game will be in short supply.
3. The Pac-12 must assess the feasibility of adding a league game – that’s right: consider playing a 10-game conference rotation.
This would ensure quality content for fans and help with finances: In-conference games are free, while non-conference home games against Group of Five and FCS opponents often cost upwards of $500,000 (and are getting more expensive every year). .
Furthermore, the expansion of the College Football Playoff (in 2024) essentially guarantees a berth for the Pac-12 champion and, crucially, will allow general access to teams with multiple defeats. (Perhaps the biggest flaw in the current model has been the continued exclusion of teams with two losses.)
That said, 10 conference games are only viable if the Pac-12 expands.
4. The latest round of realignment could make games at neutral venues more attractive for Pac-12 teams and their potential opponents.
Arlington, Houston and Atlanta are always options, but the new locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles may make more sense geographically for Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 teams.
Certainly, SoFi Stadium is attractive because of the exposure it offers in a vital recruiting region. We suspect it will play an important role in future Pac-12 scheduling strategy.
And let’s not forget the potential for dates with the ACC, which only plays eight conference games and can provide a significant game inventory.
5. Finally, the Pac-12 should consider the home-and-home series against USC and UCLA.
Of course, the remaining 10 schools will be reluctant to acknowledge the defectors, but objectively, these matchups make sense: road trips are manageable and would help with recruitment, and origin dates would drive strong ticket sales.
Additionally, LA schools will need non-conference games on the West Coast due to the air mileage that awaits them in league play.
It could be a difficult contract to sign from an emotional standpoint, but we see the home series and home series against USC and UCLA as valuable dates in the future.
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