Does B1G Have A Viable Strategy For UCLA And USC. . . Or Not?
What does it mean for the B1G if a second raid on the Pac-12 fails?
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Aside from UCLA and USC not a single B1G university falls west of Nebraska. Only three exist west of the Mississippi River.
Like sharks in the water smelling blood, the BIG 12 has stirred the pot by publicly threatening to acquire the four corners schools (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah). Meanwhile, the B1G has iterated they want to add Oregon and Washington (but not Stanford and Cal interestingly).
The B1G can apparently foot the bill to take on Washington and Oregon, but not Stanford and Cal?
This all begs one simple yet highly critical question. In their aggressive move to enlist UCLA and USC to outright OWN the Los Angeles media market, the nation’s No. 2 LARGEST media market:
Was the calculus of integrating a sustainable conference experience for UCLA and USC not fully formed by the B1G?
Did goodwill of NCAA student athletes even enter the calculus?
Or did the B1G truly realize, only after the fact, that for UCLA and USC to compete, traveling cross country was obligatory- save an annual crosstown match? Did they realize optics of player strain would make it hard to separate financial ramifications from athletic and scholastic ramifications?
Aside from UCLA and USC there isn’t another B1G university west of Nebraska, while several are right on the East Coast. In some respects, it appears that the mighty B1G is building the airplane as they fly it.
Frankly, it’s illogical to raid the Pac-12 for four teams in TWO sweeps instead of just one because: 1. the element of surprise is gone, and 2. the incumbent conference has a vastly better chance mount a retention strategy.
Because of this fact, there is a compelling case to be made that integrating UCLA and USC was not a fully-formed strategy, and it could ultimately backfire for the Los Angeles darling universities. On the surface, it was exciting for B1G and it meant a money train for the L.A. darlings. But there’s more to university athletics than money- even a ton of it.
If the remaining Pac-12 universities benefit from a stellar media deal, and if San Diego State and Southern Methodist University end up adding strong value to the Pac-12, the L.A. darlings could find themselves out on a limb. If the remaining marquee universities benefited from staying put and maintaining a modest travel schedule, the B1G could find itself without a Western division, and the rigors for the L.A. darlings could be palpable.
Furthermore, there is a very real possibility that the rigors of travel and a fiercer conference could bring UCLA and USC to a middling status, which in time might cause them to lose some luster, while affecting invitations to bowl games, playoffs and NCAA tournaments.
Time will reveal whether Kliavkoff delivers a winning media strategy. He faces pressure from Pac-12 schools right now- specifically from Washington and ASU, who expect results this month. Time will reveal if the Pac-12 safeguards Washington, Oregon- or if the Northern Pacific schools chase the money like the L.A. darlings. Time will also reveal if the Four Corners schools also stay put in a reinforced Pac-12 with a winning media package, or if they entertain a formal BIG-12 invite.
Many sports analysts recognize what the B1G and the BIG-12 may gain if the Pac-12 implodes, but it’s important to note that the B1G’s success with UCLA and USC hinges desperately on whether they architect a viable western strategy, which is merely speculative at present. The very best move for Kliavkoff is finalizing a deal that solidifies his conference and entices new entrants to come aboard. It will stop the bleeding.
Kliavkoff’s media deal production is the crux of it all. If he delivers, and if the Pac-12 finds itself rejuvenated, the B1G and L.A. darlings could end up with egg on their face, despite getting precisely what they both wanted.