In what may be the most consequential decision in the modern history of ASU sports, the school has announced it is leaving the Pac-12 and joining the Big 12 alongside UA and the University of Utah. The Big 12 Presidents have voted unanimously to accept the schools into the conference at the start of the 2024-25 academic year.
This upcoming season will officially be ASU’s final in the Pac-12, where it has competed since it left the WAC along with UA in 1978. Most sports are making the jump, with the exception being hockey which is still set to join the NCHC in 2024.
"We are excited for this new chapter, a move that is necessary to remain competitive in top-tier Division 1 athletics," ASU President Michael Crow said in the press release announcing the move. "We are joining a premier athletic conference and bringing with us programs on the rise, our rich traditions and history, and the metro Phoenix media market. We're in a good spot, and we are pleased to be with UArizona and Utah in the move."
ASU saw formidable athletic success during its time in the Pac-12, including
- Three Pac-12 championships in football and two Rose Bowl appearances
- 21 conference championships in wrestling
- Two women’s basketball conference championships
- At least 35 conference championships in other sports
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff has spent the past year navigating a contracting television market in hopes of putting together a media rights contract suitable for the Pac-12 teams left behind by USC and UCLA’s surprise departure for the Big Ten in June 2022.
The Pac-12’s current media rights deal with ESPN and FOX which pays each school about $21 million annually, expires in the summer of 2024.
This effort is ultimately materialized in an offer that would primarily host Pac-12 sporting events on Apple TV’s streaming platform and would pay substantially less per year to member schools when compared to rights deals for conferences like the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12.
"Today's news is incredibly disappointing for student-athletes, fans, alumni and staff of the Pac-12 who cherish the over 100-year history, tradition and rivalries of the Conference of Champions," the Pac-12 said in a statement following the announcement.
In October 2022, the Big 12 signed a six-year extension with ESPN and Fox that would pay each member school nearly $32 million per year and keep the conference’s marquee sporting events on linear TV rather than streaming.
Crow confirmed in a press conference on Saturday that ASU would receive the full Big 12 media payout through the duration of the contract.
"The financial package is strong. The stability of the Big 12 is strong. We are ready, and the timing is right," ASU Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson said in the release. "The exposure and visibility as well as the resources from the conference will help us compete for championships. From enhancing our ability to recruit Texas for football to the Big 12's strength in basketball, good days are ahead."
The Arizona Board of Regents held an emergency executive session Thursday night, with ASU President Michael Crow and UA President Robert Robbins both in attendance.
According to ESPN's Pete Thamel, UA first formally applied for Big 12 membership and was approved in a vote by the Big 12's Presidents and Chancellors on Wednesday. ASU and Utah's application and formal invitation came Friday.
“The conference is gaining three premier institutions both academically and athletically," Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said in a statement. "The entire Big 12 looks forward to working alongside their presidents, athletic directors, student-athletes and administrators.”
The move leaves the 108-year-old Pac-12 on the verge of complete collapse. On Friday morning, it was reported that the Universities of Oregon and Washington were accepting an offer to move to the Big Ten, joining USC and UCLA as Pac-12-to-Big Ten defections starting in the 2024-25 academic year. The future of the four remaining Pac-12 schools, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, Washington State and Oregon State remains unclear.
"We will always have fond memories of the Pac-12 conference and this move will not change our appreciation of more than 40 years of experiences, rivalries, partnerships, and traditions," Crow said in the release. "But now, it is the right time for change."
Editor's note: This is a developing story and may be updated.
Edited by Angelina Steel.