Friday was Arizona football’s first preseason practice in shoulder pads, as well as the first time it lined up against each other after some initial workouts focused on fundamentals. It was also the first chance for Jedd Fisch to speak to the media about the early progress the Wildcats were making toward the 2023 opener in just over four weeks.
But, not surprisingly, the first questions he was asked were about realignment, and where Arizona fits into the constantly changing landscape of college sports. He didn’t seem to mind, though.
“What I love is that all eyes are on Arizona football,” Fisch said. “You can’t open up an article, you can’t read anything on social media, you can’t see anything on ESPN without (seeing) an Arizona helmet. And that tells me that our brand is growing. It’s getting better. More people are talking about us, more people want to know what’s happening with Arizona, and you can’t beat that in our situation right now.”
Arizona appears to be on the cusp of leaving the Pac-12 Conference after 45 years and joining the Big 12. The Big 12 reportedly voted to approve the Wildcats as its 14th member on Thursday night, doing so around the same time as an Arizona Board of Regents meeting involving both UA president Robert Robbins and ASU president Michael Crow.
Brett McMurphy of Action Network reported Friday afternoon that “formal approval” of Arizona, ASU and Utah to the Big 12 would happen in the next 24 hours.
Further dominoes fell on Friday, as multiple outlets are reporting the Big Ten will be adding Oregon and Washington in 2024 to go with previous additions UCLA and USC from the Pac-12. ASU and Utah have also been mentioned as joining Arizona in the Big 12, which last week got the latest round of realignment going by welcoming back Colorado after a 12-year stint in the Pac-12.
Asked if he’s been told by Robbins, or athletic director Dave Heeke, that Arizona is moving to the Big 12, Fisch claimed to not know. But read between the lines and it’s evident he knows more than he’s letting on.
“These kids are going to play some teams maybe they haven’t played before,” he said. “They’re gonna see some things they maybe haven’t seen before.”
Fisch said he has told the players “what I’m aware of, which isn’t much,” but also that what’s going on now is just the latest massive change in college athletics that they’re witnessing firsthand.
“I said you guys are literally living through history,” Fisch said. “If you think about the guys that (have) played college football from, let’s call it 2020 to 2025. You lived through a pandemic, and how that works in college football, the uniqueness of playing in front of no one. You went through transfer portal rules that no one really ever thought would ever happen that way, the amount of exchange of players. Then NIL, you started getting paid. And now you’re sitting there looking at conferences that were historically a group of 12, 10, 10, 12, whatever they were, turning into 16-team mega conferences.”
The Big 12, which has 13 official members for 2024-25, would grow to 16 with the addition of Arizona, ASU and Utah. The Big Ten, already at 16 for next year, would jump to 18 if Oregon and Washington come along, while the SEC grows to 16 in a year with the addition of Oklahoma and Texas.
The Pac-12, meanwhile, could be down to four remaining members—Cal, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State—when the dust settles.