Big Ten clears way for Oregon, Washington to join, AP sources say, putting Pac-12 on brink

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The Big Ten has cleared the way for Oregon and Washington to apply for membership and join the conference, four people with familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Friday, dealing a crushing blow to the beleaguered Pac-12.

The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten and the schools in the Pacific Northwest were finalizing an official agreement and announcement.

The Ducks and Huskies from the Pac-12 still must officially apply for membership and the Big Ten presidents, who met Friday morning to discuss expansion, need to officially approve any moves.

Two of the people familiar with the negotiations said the schools’ applications are expected to be approved unanimously.

When approved, they will become the 17th and 18th members of the Big Ten, and the third and fourth on the West Coast, joining USC and UCLA. The Big Ten will be the largest conference in major college sports, spanning 15 states from New Jersey to Washington.

Former Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren had encouraged member schools to strongly consider adding Oregon and Washington after the conference landed the two Los Angeles schools last summer — the blow that has sent the Pac-12 reeling for more than a year.

The latest departure from the Pac-12 pushed the storied West Coast college sports conference to the brink of extinction.

Pac-12 leaders met early Friday to determine if the nine remaining schools, which at the time included Oregon and Washington, would accept the potential media rights deal with Apple that Commissioner George Kilavkoff delivered to the group earlier this week, according to a person familiar with that meeting.

“Our schools are committed to each other and to the Pac-12. We’ll get our media rights deal done, we’ll announce the deal. I think the realignment that’s going on in college athletics will come to an end for this cycle,” Kliavkoff said last month during the Pac-12 football media day.

But the conferences’ two biggest remaining brands decided to seek a new home.

With Oregon and Washington positioned to jump, the Pac-12 is in danger of soon being down to four members: Stanford, California, Oregon State and Washington State.

Arizona has been in serious talks to leave for the Big 12 and join Colorado, which announced last week its exit from the Pac-12 after this year. It is unclear if in-state rival Arizona State will join the Wildcats. The Arizona Board of Regents held a special meeting Thursday night to try to get the schools on the same page.

The Big 12 also has been targeting Utah, which might have no choice but to join. The Big 12 is trying to get to 16 teams for next season in a conference that could also extend through 10 states and all four time zones.

The Big 12 and Commissioner Brett Yormark outmaneuvered the Pac-12 and agreed to an extension of media rights deals with ESPN and Fox with two years left on its deal.

That left a thin market for Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 and a deal that would have left its schools lagging behind the other Power Five conferences in media rights revenue.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football