Conference leaders, athletic directors, head coaches and other campus officials will gather in Scottsdale this week for the Pac-12’s annual spring meetings. But the story is not the participants; it is the backdrop.
The meetings will take place during a revolutionary era in college athletics, with significant changes targeting revenue-generating sports and improving Pac-12 competitive challenges.
The four-day meetings, which begin Monday, are being held in person for the first time since 2019. The agenda is filled with important issues.
Topics include, but are not limited to:
– Expansion of the College Football Playoffs – Name, image and likeness opportunities – Changes to the transfer portal – The ongoing transformation of the NCAA organization – Pac-12 media rights negotiations – The potential sale of statistics gambling companies
We don’t expect the conference to announce significant changes this week on any front. Major policy changes require the approval of the presidents and chancellors, and they are not expected to meet until the middle of the month.
But the gathering will allow coaches, athletic directors, commissioner George Kliavkoff and associate commissioner Merton Hanks to delve into the best strategic options for Pac-12 football in person.
The conference is considering changes to the schedule (continuing with nine league games or moving to eight) and the future of the divisional format — all with the goal of maximizing opportunities to send teams to the playoffs.
But options that might have worked for a 12-team event need to be reconsidered with an expansion pending through the 2026 season. The Pac-12 must come up with a plan that best positions the conference for the remaining years of the four-man playoffs. teams.
A move to eight league games seems unlikely at this stage as the Big Ten are unlikely to do the same. Without a partner, Pac-12 teams wouldn’t have quality options to fill the extra non-conference slot.
The future of the division format also depends on factors beyond the Pac-12’s control.
Currently, NCAA rules require conferences to have divisions in order to hold a championship game. If the policy is relaxed, as many expect, the Pac-12 could move to a single entity for football — the same format it uses for basketball — and continue hosting the event.
But that’s only half of the equation. The conference must conclude that eliminating divisions is, in fact, the best strategy for optimizing CFP offerings. If that turns out to be the case, it must also decide how the participants in the title game would be determined.
Presumably, the teams with the best conference records (Nos. 1 and 2 in the standings) would meet for the trophy.
But because commissioner George Kliavkoff is pushing coaches and athletic directors to consider all options when it comes to the playoffs, we shouldn’t completely discount the possibility that the Pac-12 are using penultimate CFP rankings as a factor. decisive for the participation in the match for the title.
(Oh, to be a fly on the wall for this discussion with the coaches.)
Essentially, the Pac-12 must determine how much structural changes are worth during those sabbatical years until the playoff expansion happens in 26.
It’s an added layer of complexity for a conference with many challenges to solve – and only a few are fully within its control.
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