USC President Carol Folt “shut down” Pac-12 expansion plans

Late last summer, opportunity knocked in Pak-12Door. Texas and Oklahoma departed for the Southeast Conference, leaving the remaining Big 12 schools in the dust with no choice but to look west for what appeared to be an increasingly safe home for the Power Five conference.

Of course, the Pac-12 football product hasn’t been used in over a decade, due in large part to USC’s demise. But the Trojans were still the blue blood, the national flagship program. 2 media market. If it was Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 USCAn ingrained presence equates to stability. And in the formation of college sports conferences, such a wave can lift all boats.

First year Pac-12 Commissioner George Klyavkoff took calls from desperate “Big 12” schools and settled on a few that he thought added enough value to seriously consider expanding the Pac-12 presence in America’s Great Plains.

Klyavkov brought together a committee of three presidents and three athletic directors to decide whether to recommend the expansion to a larger group. The group met on a Zoom phone to review a deck of 20 slides. But it took about 15 minutes of the Pac-12’s hour-long presentation before USC President Carol Fault spoke.

Fault told the group she didn’t understand why Pac-12 would be expanding and expressed surprise they were even talking about it, according to multiple sources who were familiar with the challenge but not authorized to speak publicly due to the topic’s sensitivity.

“Carol turned it off,” one of the sources said.

“She chilled the whole process,” another source said.

In late August, Pac-12 announced that it would not expand.

Ten months later, on June 30, USC and UCLA announced they left the Pac-12 for the big ten from August 2024continuing the move of college football to the two superpower conferences that Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC started last summer.

Now, with USC and UCLA heading towards the Chicago Big Ten, Stanford, Washington, and Oregon are reportedly among the next wave of Big Ten targets after prioritizing Notre Dame, putting the Pac-12 in even more danger.

Meanwhile, the Big 12, which merged when the remaining eight schools added four new members, looks set to poach any Pac-12 school with a roving eye.

Last summer, Pac-12 could have ranked among the top schools in the Big 12, positioning itself as one of the top four conferences, regardless of the long-term intentions of the schools in Los Angeles. Instead, USC’s negative response, combined with its escape to the Big Ten a year later, put the Pac-12 in a precarious position.

“We have no intention of responding to anonymous comments or rumors,” Folt said in a statement to The Los Angeles Times.

USC President Carol Folt addresses alumni during the graduation ceremony at USC on May 13.

USC President Carol Folt addresses alumni during the graduation ceremony at USC on May 13.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

At the time, there were clear reasons why USC did not want to expand. Within Pac-12, USC leaders were not the only ones to express such reservations. Adding members would mean dividing Pac-12’s already depressingly small income among more hands. And given that USC has not yet been invited to the College Football playoffs, adding more competition within its own conference would only make that elusive goal more difficult to achieve.

At Pac-12 Media Day on Friday, Klyavkov recalled that he was vacationing in Montana with his family on that surreal Thursday morning when he received an urgent text message from a Pac-12 rep. After driving through Idaho, he found a place with a mobile connection and stopped. He quickly turned the car around, feeling stunned by the news that his Los Angeles rods had betrayed their nearly century-long relationship with the league and its peers.

Less than a year after he became Pac-12 commissioner, Klyavkov didn’t have much time to make his premiere program happier. He was definitely in the process of trying. De-linking the division to the league championship game will definitely help USC. But now the Trojans left without warning, for Klyavkov had not been given any indication of the Trojan wanderlust.

USC coach Lincoln Riley said on Friday that the school’s openness to assessing its future conference membership was discussed with him before he took the job at the end of November.

“I gave a little warning about it,” Riley said. “We had conversations when I took the job, not specifically about the Big Ten, not about the imminent move, but we knew that we would have to follow what was happening. You have to be at the forefront, and so I’m glad that our people have been progressive enough to take advantage of what I think will be a great opportunity. I certainly understand the reasons behind this and fully support it.”

USC coach Lincoln Riley speaks to reporters during Pac-12's LA Live media day on Friday.

USC coach Lincoln Riley speaks to reporters during Pac-12’s LA Live media day on Friday.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

A year after Pac-12 could seize the moment by expanding its foothold in upcoming media rights negotiations — for example, the league could add Texas Christian to add the Dallas-Fort Worth media market to its offerings — Kliavkoff is now fighting for the future of their league from a much less advantageous position.

Asked at his press conference on Friday if the USC had “misled” him, Klyavkov said: “I won’t talk about it. We will take the high road and not talk about what happened in the past.”

Klyavkov said the last month had been “a whirlwind”.

“We’ve had two board meetings a week for the last four weeks,” Klyavkoff said. “Looking into the eyes of my colleagues, understanding their commitment, that their first priority is to ensure the survival, prosperity, growth and success of Pac-12. They are set for a conference. I think it’s best to ask them about it.”

A natural follow-up given recent events: why would Klyavkov—or any of the college athletes, for that matter—trust anyone else?

Later Friday morning, Oregon State Athletic Director Rob Mullens spoke to a group of reporters about the situation at his school. Oregon remains the leading Pac-12 football brand and is speculated to be in contention for a spot in the Big Ten. But without an invitation, the Ducks have no choice but to hold out with the Pac-12 and make the most of it.

“Your initial reaction is personal emotions and what they mean for your league and for my school,” Mullens said, “but in the end, what else [USC and UCLA] have to do? They are also in a difficult position. I’m trying to get away from it.”

It was a media day like no other in Pac-12 history. The event, ironically, was held at the Novo Theater in downtown Los Angeles, and yet USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn and UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond were out due to their usual performances to cheer on their football coaches. and players just a few miles from their campuses.

Over the next two years, Pac-12 presidents, athletic directors, and coaches will divide their meetings into two parts: one that the Trojans and Bruins can be privy to, and one that they are now banned from joining due to conflicts of interest. .

On Friday, Klyavkov attempted to “go down the straight road” in his prepared remarks about USC and UCLA, voicing his frustration but saying “we treasure our relationship with their student-athletes, coaches, staff, faculty.” , alumni and fans.

But listening to him express his displeasure at college athletics putting money ahead of the well-being of athletes, there was no need to wonder where he was pointing his finger in his judgment.

“We must measure … our ability to provide the highest level of athletic competition for our student athletes without unnecessary travel, time commitments, and other competitive barriers to their academic success,” Klyavkov said.

“We are at a critical juncture, and the decisions we make in the near future will determine whether we are moving towards a world where a handful of conferences play professional sports at the expense of tens of thousands of academic opportunities.”