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Arizona issues statement on UCLA, USC departures; Pac-12 ‘authorizes’ expansion

arizona-wildcats-pac12-conference-ucla-usc-big-ten-realignment-statement-expansion Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12 isn’t going down without a fight.

The conference issued a statement Friday saying its board of directors has “authorized the Conference to explore all expansion options” in the wake of UCLA and USC’s surprise departure to the Big Ten beginning in 2024.

“The 10 university presidents and chancellors remain committed to a shared mission of academic and athletic excellence on behalf of our student-athletes,” the statement continued.

It was a much more forceful statement than the one issued Thursday, which said the conference was “extremely surprised and disappointed” by UCLA and USC jumping ship but otherwise said nothing.

Individual schools have also released statements, with Arizona issuing one on Friday morning from school president Robert Robbins:

As a longtime member of the PAC-12 Conference, we are extremely disappointed in yesterday’s announcement of the future departure of two peer universities. The proud traditions and culture of the PAC-12 and its persistent commitment to student-athlete success have always made it a national leader. The University of Arizona will continue in its commitment to serving its student-athletes and ensuring we continue to compete at the highest levels of Division I athletics in all women’s and men’s sports. We will continue to engage and communicate with our peers around the conference to ensure the University of Arizona and its student-athletes, campus community, loyal fans, alumni, and supporters are a priority in all decision making.

UCLA and USC joining the Big Ten figures to set off another massive round of conference realignment, even greater than the one that’s happened in the past year after Oklahoma and Texas announced they were joining the SEC. Oregon and Washington have reportedly tried to get into the Big Ten but were told the league is “standing pat” outside of waiting to see if Notre Dame is interested.

Arizona, if it were to pursue another league, would likely try to join the Big 12. If it remains in the Pac-12 the key would be adding teams from within the conference’s footprint—Boise State, Gonzaga, San Diego State, UNLV, for example—to make up for the loss of UCLA and USC.