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What Colorado’s move to the Big 12 means for Arizona

Never a dull moment in college athletics

arizona-wildcats-colorado-buffaloes-big12-pac12-realignment-scheduling-recruiting-2024-robbins Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Here we go again.

A little more than a year after UCLA and USC shocked college sports by announcing a move to the Big Ten, Colorado has dealt the floundering Pac-12 Conference another blow by announcing it will leave for the Big 12 starting with the 2024-25 athletic season.

Colorado was a member of the Big 12 (previously the Big 8) from 1947 until joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

The Buffaloes’ departure leaves the Pac-12 with nine members beyond this year, its fewest since 1977, the year before Arizona and ASU joined what was then known as the Pacific-8.

What does this move mean for the UA? Here are some things to consider:

Jump ship or keep staying the course?

UA president Dr. Robert C. Robbins has repeatedly said he’s waiting to see what the Pac-12’s media rights deal will look like before considering anything beyond staying with the conference. He said as much again Wednesday to The Athletics’s Max Olson, that response coming in the wake of reports that Colorado was planning to leave.

Now that this has happened, is waiting for a deal that’s supposedly been right around the corner for more than a year really worth it?

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff has said the conference won’t start to look to add new schools—something that’s absolutely necessary now, if it wasn’t already—until after the existing members approve a media deal. But what kind of deal will the league get with only nine schools, and will it be something that prospective new members will want to be a part of?

If Arizona decides to move on from the Pac-12, the Big 12 makes the most sense from a geographic and competitive standpoint. That conference will be at 13 schools for 2024-25, an awkward number that’s not great for scheduling, so there’s room to add one more for next year. UConn has been heavily rumored as a candidate for that, and since the Big 12 already spans from Utah to Florida a reach all the way to the Northeast doesn’t sound that crazy.

Brett McMurphy of Stadium is reporting the Big 12 will add “between 1 and 3 schools to join Colorado in 2024,” so the opportunity is there if Arizona wants to take it.

But if the Wildcats were to head east, it would mean moving away from its biggest out-of-state alumni base, that being California.


Speaking of scheduling, going on the assumption that Arizona is in the same place a year from now it’s going to have to find some new opponents to play in a bunch of sports. Next year, when it was supposed to be a 10-team league, Pac-12 football teams would have played nine conference games like normal, but now it’ll have to shrink to an 8-game league schedule (with one team on a bye every week) and thus a fourth nonconference game must be added.

For volleyball and both men’s and women’s basketball, the number of conference games dips to 16. For men’s basketball that means finding 15 nonconference matchups, compared to 11 for 2023-24.

Colorado’s departure doesn’t impact baseball or softball, since it didn’t field those sports.


“Why would you want to go to a school that plays in that conference? It may not be around much longer, and who knows what league it’ll be in when you get there?”

Versions of this statement are going to be heavily used by schools trying to recruit the same prep, junior college and NCAA transfer portal athletes as Arizona. The value of negative recruiting just went up a big notch thanks to Colorado’s move, and it could cause some prospects the Wildcats are pursuing to have second thoughts.

The same goes for if Arizona ultimately decides to leave the Pac-12, for the Big 12 for instance. By moving away from being in a conference with other California schools it changes the recruiting footprint, making it harder to entice athletes from the Los Angeles area to come to the desert when there aren’t any opportunities for them to play close to home once in a while.