Fans of the Pac-12 are likely thinking, “That escalated quickly!”

The Pac-12, who had a year to secure a television rights partner, came to the table with just a streaming-only proposal from Apple+.

CU jettisoned the league for the Big 12 only 11 days ago, and was quickly followed by Oregon and Washington, who will join the BIG (Big Ten), announced early on Friday. Later that day, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah also announced they’ll be leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12. USC and UCLA announced they’d join the Big Ten last summer.

That’s left the Power 5 conference down to only four members: Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and Washington State starting in 2024. And no broadcasting deal to showcase the teams.

What comes next for the Pac-12?

Pac-12, Mountain West merger seems likely

The great irony is this: Mountain West teams like San Diego State—who announced they were leaving for the Pac-12, but then didn’t—Colorado State, Fresno State, and others were hoping to make the jump to the P5 Pac-12. Now, it’s much more likely the MWC absorbs two or all four of the remaining Pac-12 teams, as Mark Zeigler wrote.

The Mountain West currently has a television deal with CBS and FOX which runs through the 2026 season. That’s a huge positive for the four schools without a home. However, the MWC teams only earn $4 million per year from that TV deal, which is about $25 million less than the Pac-12 teams were used to.

Oh, and that Apple streaming deal the Pac-12 turned down last week? That would have paid around $23 million per school. Think the Pac-12 is wishing they took that deal now?

Still, some money is better than none.

But, what if the remaining four Pac-12 schools wanted to poach the best of the Mountain West to rebuild their conference and keep that P5 status?

That’s unlikely because each MWC school would have to pay $34 million to depart. That is, unless the entire league were to disband and join the Pac-12.

Of these scenarios, the Mountain West absorbing at least Washington State and Oregon State is most likely. And possibly Stanford and Cal, too, to make a strong 16-team conference which would have a shot at being a Power 5.

What about Stanford and Cal?

At this point and time, Washington State and Oregon State joining the Mountain West seems almost certain. They have little elsewhere to go.

But Stanford and Cal may not be so quick to join the MWC and take a huge pay cut in terms of their TV deal.

It’s possible both of those California teams decide to go independent for the next two years and reassess the college football landscape at that point.

Stanford and Cal may not want to send teams as far west as Fort Collins and Colorado Springs—smaller teams like soccer and softball—and they may not want others to go to rural places like Laramie, Wyoming. Plus, Stanford and Berkley are known for their academics and could think they’re too good for schools like Boise State to be in their conference.

Above it all, Stanford and Cal could go independent and hope they land in the Big Ten, Big 12 or even land some soft of a TV deal on their own.

What a Mountain West – Pac-12 merger would look like

If all four of the Pac teams join the Mountain West, that would give the new conference 16 football schools and 15 in basketball. Could Gonzaga join as a basketball-only school? If so, the Mountain Pac would have a strong basketball presence with Gonzaga, SDSU (National Championship Game in April), New Mexico, Nevada; and even teams like UNLV, CSU, Boise and Utah State are competitive depending on the year.

One difference between a merger and a few teams defecting to another, already established league is: It would take time for the two groups to work out all the details. That could be a major hinderance in the Mountain West and Pac-12 actually merging in the near future.

It is the best option for both groups—the Mountain West gains some good-to-great members and the Pac-12 teams have a new home—but the deal still may not be worked out. Time will tell.

The new Mountain Pacific West Conference football teams and potential conferences: 


  • Air Force Falcons
  • Boise State Broncos
  • Colorado State Rams
  • University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack
  • New Mexico Lobos
  • UNLV Rebels
  • Utah State Aggies
  • Wyoming Cowboys


  • University of California Bears
  • California State (Fresno State) Bulldogs
  • Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors
  • Oregon State Beavers
  • San Diego State Aztecs
  • San Jose State Spartans
  • Stanford Cardinal
  • Washington State Cougars