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Report: Move to Big Ten Might Not Make Sense for Cal, Oregon, Stanford, Washington

Former Fox president explains to San Jose Mercury News reporter why those four schools are better off staying with Pac-12

A former Fox president who negotiated a number of media deals with college conferences suggests that Cal, Stanford, Oregon and Washington are better off staying in the Pac-12 rather than joining the Big Ten, according to a report by Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News.

This opinion by former Fox executive Bob Thompson is different from what we were led to believe.  It has been reported those four Pac-12 schools might want to join the Big Ten to gain a bigger piece of the financial pie, as USC and UCLA presumably will do when they leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten prior to the 2024 season.

And there have been reports that the Big Ten might be interested in further expansion that would include adding Washington, Oregon, Cal and Stanford.

But Thompson told Wilner that Oregon, Washington, Cal and Stanford would benefit by staying in the Pac-12, partly because of the College Football Playoff will be expanded to 12 teams in the 2026 season, perhaps even sooner.

“The expansion of the (playoff) and the fact there are likely going to be automatic bids for a number of conference champions is great for the Pac-12,” Thompson said on 'Canzano and Wilner: The Podcast'" 

Thompson does not believe the four Pac-12 schools would get a full share of the media-money windfall if they joined the Big Ten.  Only Notre Dame would earn a full share if it became a Big Ten member in football.

“The only one that pencils out … is Notre Dame,” Thompson said. “And I don’t think that if Oregon and Washington — and even throw in Stanford and Cal, if they went out there — that they’re going to get a full share.”

“They’d have to come out at a discount,” said Thompson, who negotiated media deals with the Pac-12 during his tenure at Fox Sports. “And it would be a significant discount, probably not a whole lot more than you’re going to get staying in the Pac-12.”

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And when the CFP expands, Oregon, Washington, Stanford and Cal would have a better chance of getting into that playoff as members of the Pac-12 rather than as members of the Big Ten.

“Your chances for success and being relevant … from a playoff standpoint are greatly enhanced by staying where you’re at,” Thompson said.

A lot of viewpoints and possibilities have been tossed around since USC and UCLA made their departure announcements on June 30.  But this is just one more perspective to consider as Cal and the other three schools consider their uncertain football futures.

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Cover photo by Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports

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