The Big Ten has become unlikable. Untrustworthy. A bully. It pillaged the Pac-12 a year ago and then, this past week, as the Pac-12 collapsed — as a century of tradition went up in smoke, as thousands of student-athletes in dozens of sports saw the experience they signed up for in peril — the Big Ten stepped in and offered refuge … to the Pac-12’s strongest members.
Perhaps that’s how you win in today’s college athletics landscape. But what transpired late last week didn’t feel like winning.
Oregon and Washington are joining the Big Ten in 2024, following USC and UCLA, which left the Pac-12 for the Big Ten last summer and will also begin playing in the Midwest regularly next year.
Meanwhile, two of the most renowned academic institutions in the country, Stanford and Cal, twist in the wind, along with Oregon State and Washington State, which are likely doomed to a life as mid-majors.
Those four are the big losers in all of this. But nobody won, other than perhaps the Big 12, which survived its own crises a year ago and, Friday, added three reluctant new members from the Pac-12, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah.
Oregon and Washington didn’t really win, either. They join a league in the Big Ten that’s out of their footprint. They’ll lose rivalries their fans cared about. Their athletes will be on five-hour flights just about every other week. They’ll get a full share of the Big Ten’s next media rights deal, but reportedly only 50% of this one, starting at $30 million annually and growing $1 a year annually until 2030. It’s more than the reported $23 million each year they might have gotten from the Pac-12’s proposed deal with Apple TV, which is not insignificant, but also not enough to think there is no chance they’ll grow to regret this move. They’ll have a more difficult path to…