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Pac-12 'could, indeed, fall apart' if TV deal doesn't come together

Further speculation about the future of the Pac-12 rages on

What is the future of the Pac-12 Conference?

ESPN's Pete Thamel wrote about the conference's struggles to find a new television deal and what it means for its future in an article on ESPN+ on Monday.

In a word, the future looks bleak. 

According to Thamel, the Pac-12's "vote of confidence" statement released last Monday "reminded everyone that [the league] could, indeed, fall apart."

WHY IS THE CONFERENCE POTENTIALLY IN TROUBLE?

With the Pac-12 TV deal expiring in 2024, the conference is currently in the process of trying to land a new one. The issue is that without USC and UCLA, the Pac-12's TV rights aren't as valuable and the league is struggling to find a new partner

"It's safe to say the schools in the [SEC and Big Ten] are going to be making more than $30 million more than teams in the other leagues now and going forward," Thamel wrote. "(The Big 12 is at least safely established in the upper-middle class after agreeing to a recent deal with ESPN and Fox.)"

If the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 will all pay more money to its member schools than the Pac-12 will pay theirs, why would Pac-12 schools with options to jump ship choose to stick around?

"Here's the bottom line on the Pac-12: The television contract numbers Kliavkoff delivers in the upcoming weeks are paramount to the league's survival," Thamel wrote. "If the numbers are decent, some sort of temporary solution can be constructed with a deal expected to be in the five-year range."

But if the numbers aren't good, which is a real possibility, schools could potentially join other conferences. 

"If [Kliavkoff] has something up his sleeve, it's with some entity that no one knows about," an industry source told Thamel. 

WHERE WOULD PAC-12 SCHOOLS GO?

The Big 12 is reportedly interested in adding Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah. The Big Ten may look to add Washington and Oregon in the future. 

In his story, Thamel wrote that Washington and Oregon "sticking in a watered-down Pac-12 for the next generation appears unlikely."

WHAT'S THE BEST-CASE SCENARIO FOR THE PAC-12?

According to Thamel, it's a five-year TV deal.

"If there's a decent deal available to the Pac-12 in the upcoming weeks and if Oregon and Washington want to sign a grant of rights to be part of that deal, it will be a short-term deal," he wrote. "(Think five years.) This means in another three years, the same issues of whether the Big Ten has the appetite to consume them will remain."