Big Ten examining potential additions of Oregon, Washington, California and Stanford to conference

The Big Ten has started considering further additions to its 16-team conference with league members holding preliminary conversations surrounding expansion to as many as 20 teams, sources tell CBS Sports. While Oregon, Washington, California and Stanford — all Pac-12 members — are the programs under consideration by the league, it is Oregon and Washington that are the primary focus should the Big Ten chose to expand by two programs and become an 18-team conference.

These exploratory talks are at their earliest stages for a league that had seemingly closed the door on further expansion after moving to 16 members following the additions of USC and UCLA from the Pac-12. The Trojans and Bruins will join the Big Ten at the start of the 2024-25 athletic season.

“The Big Ten Conference is still focused on integration of USC and UCLA, but it’s also commissioner’s job to keep conference chancellors and presidents informed about new developments as they occur,” the league shared in a statement to CBS Sports.

No further additions are imminent. However, with the Big 12 adding Colorado from the Pac-12 last week and a proposed media rights deal from Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff not appearing to be financially lucrative enough for other teams in the league, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah are now pondering similar moves to the Big 12.

Should one (Arizona) or all three programs defect, the Pac-12 could be down to as few as six members with Oregon, Washington, California and Stanford the most prominent universities remaining. (Oregon State, Washington State are the others.) At that point, it may become more prudent for the Big Ten to increase efforts towards acquiring the best remaining programs.

Pac-12 schools are reluctant to make a move that would unravel the conference, sources say. However, in many ways, the market has spoken with the Pac-12’s best media rights offer¬†appearing to be an streaming-center Apple TV deal that would reportedly net programs approximately $20 million annually, more than $10 million less per year than their Big 12 counterparts. (Escalators could push the Apple TV deal higher.) Potential linear television partners do not appear to be interested in any type of significant rights package with the Pac-12.

The departures by USC and UCLA, announced in June 2022, put the Pac-12 in a precarious position. Without the Los Angeles media market in play, the conference’s value has plummeted. The league remains without a media rights deal secured beyond the upcoming 2023-24 season.

For now, eyes remain on the Pac-12 to see if any further movement occurs in wake of Tuesday’s meeting between Kliavkoff and university leadership. The “Four Corners” schools of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah were long considered¬†Big 12 expansion targets before the Big 12 successfully lured the Buffaloes back to their old home.

Should the Pac-12 largely remain together and find itself in a position of needing to add more schools, San Diego State and SMU are among those linked as expansion candidates for the conference.