With Conference Realignment Official, the Power 5 Era Is Over (2024)

PUBLISHED June 30, 2024 | 12:59 am

| By Amanda Christovich

The most drastic conference realignment in more than a decade begins Monday.

Over the summer, the upper echelon of college sports will consolidate from five power conferences to four. The SEC and Big Ten, armed with the two biggest conference media deals and several incoming members, have begun to pull away as the NCAA’s two super leagues. To remain competitive, the Big 12 will add four new members, and the ACC will add three. The Pac-12 will continue with just two schools—and without “power” status or a clear future.

This wave of conference realignment is yet another indicator that college sports have become more commercialized than ever. Football media dollars bankrolled these agreements, and the broadcast contracts themselves dictated their timing. Meanwhile, regionality has waned in importance, as two conferences will have schools in the Pacific and Eastern time zones for the first time.

The factors driving this new era are more similar to those shaping the pro leagues than they are to amateur sports.

The path to the changes

This year’s new Power 4 makeup, led by the super leagues of the Big Ten and SEC, took about three summers to form.

The first dominoes fell in the summer of 2021, when Oklahoma and Texas announced they planned to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. The allure was clear: The schools agreed to join a conference that had just inked a $3 billion media deal with ABC and ESPN, which promised to be the most powerful in the country. After negotiating an early exit from the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma will join the SEC officially Monday, marking the beginning of the realignment wave.

After the Big 12 found replacement schools, it seemed things were settling down. But the Big Ten was eyeing the opportunity to rival the SEC. The following summer, the conference, led by then commissioner Kevin Warren, made its move: USC and UCLA agreed to leave the Pac-12. Once again, two of the most valuable football brands were departing for a potential super conference. The promise that they would join the Big Ten helped usher in the biggest conference media deal in NCAA history: a mid–$7 billion deal with Fox, CBS, and NBC.

Throughout the fall and winter, power conferences explored whether they should expand further. But more moves didn’t come until summer 2023, when the Pac-12 failed to provide a lucrative media deal offer for ’24 and beyond—and collapsed.

  • Oregon and Washington agreed to join the Big Ten, a deal financed by Fox that promised at least $30 million to $40 million per year in media rights for each of the two schools, Front Office Sports reported at the time.
  • Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Arizona State left for the Big 12.
  • Stanford and Cal departed for the ACC. They were joined by SMU.

The Pac-12 schools technically join their new leagues Aug. 2, but they’re already as good as gone. They’ll participate in football media days for their new conferences in the coming weeks.

The Pac-12 will be left with Oregon State and Washington State, operating with a scaled-down conference office, a revamped production arm called Pac-12 Enterprises. Equipped with a new commissioner, a modest media deal for football with The CW and Fox Sports, a scheduling partnership with the Mountain West for football, and an affiliate membership for other sports with the West Coast Conference, the Pac-12 will try to survive in the new era.

A new media landscape

All the Power 4 leagues now have media deals locked in until at least 2030.

While the main on-field rivalry is between the Big Ten and SEC, the off-field battle will be between their new main broadcasters. Starting last season, Fox took control of the Big Ten. And this year, the SEC will begin its exclusive partnership with ESPN. Gone are the days of the iconic SEC on CBS afternoon football game, as well as the 40-year relationship between the Big Ten and ESPN. (The rights to the College Football Playoff, which will expand to 12 teams this year, will continue to be owned exclusively by ESPN. However, the network has sublicensed a small number of first-round games to TNT.)

The Pac-12 Network, in business for 12 years, will not survive in this new era. Some of the network’s employees, as well as its new state-of-the-art production facility in San Ramon, Calif., will continue as part of Pac-12 Enterprises, however. The new entity will produce games for OSU and WSU, and it will be available for other college and pro leagues to purchase production capabilities. Some former employees have reportedly been hired elsewhere in college sports, like at Big Ten Network, where they’ll bring their expertise covering former Pac-12 programs in their new conferences.

The Big 12 signed an extension to its current deal with Fox and ESPN. The ACC’s package with ESPN goes the longest: until 2036.

More changes looming

For a time, the length of the ACC’s media deal appeared to be a good thing. When it was originally signed in 2016, schools were relieved to secure a place on the network and a stable, multimillion-dollar income for two full decades. The deal provided the conference extra stability last year as the Pac-12 fell apart, and it helped entice three new members.

But for some ACC schools that believe they could earn more money elsewhere, the deal has lost its luster. FSU and Clemson are now both suing the conference to determine whether their media-rights contracts actually bind the schools to the ACC until 2036—and whether early exit fees exceeding $100 million are enforceable. FSU has said it fully intends to leave the conference, while Clemson is hoping to just explore the opportunity. The ACC is countersuing both schools to keep itself together.

The lawsuits likely won’t yield a definitive result this year—unless the conference and schools decide to settle. But their outcome could lead to the breakup of the ACC, if the court rules that the contracts are either unenforceable, or not as strict as the ACC claims.
Ultimately, is this a good thing? Schools that landed new homes can expect a major payday to help with recruiting, coaching salaries, athlete benefits, and university marketing. But players at multiple schools will have to travel farther than ever. And then, of course, there are the schools that got left out in the cold without a place to go—as well as the fans and employees of conferences, like the Pac-12, that didn’t survive this latest wave.

With Conference Realignment Official, the Power 5 Era Is Over (2024)


With Conference Realignment Official, the Power 5 Era Is Over? ›

Over the summer, the upper echelon of college sports will consolidate from five power conferences

five power conferences
The Power Five conferences are the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC). The FBS consists of the Power Five, five other conferences known as the Group of Five (G5), and a small number of independent schools.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Power_Five_conferences
to four. The SEC
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is an American college athletic conference whose member institutions are located primarily in the South Central and Southeastern United States.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Southeastern_Conference
and Big Ten, armed with the two biggest conference media deals and several incoming members, have begun to pull away as the NCAA's two super leagues.

What is meant by Power 5 conferences? ›

The Power Five conferences are the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC). The FBS consists of the Power Five, five other conferences known as the Group of Five (G5), and a small number of independent schools.

What are the Power 5 conferences in 2024? ›

NCAA 2024: College football realignment tracker
  • ACC. The ACC is now 17 schools after adding Cal, SMU and Stanford for the 2024-25 season. ...
  • Big Ten. The Big Ten is now 18 schools after adding Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington for the 2024-25 season. ...
  • Big 12. ...
  • Pac-12. ...
  • SEC. ...
  • AAC. ...
  • Conference USA.
Jun 10, 2024

Is the PAC-12 being dissolved? ›

Along with the Pac-12's inevitable dissolution, other affiliation changes also impact the bowls. Next year, Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC, while SMU moves to the ACC with California and Stanford. “You even look at our situation here this year,” Fox said. “You get OU from the Big 12 and Arizona from the Pac-12.

What is G5 college football? ›

In fact, in the G5, which consists of the American, C-USA, the MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt, such talk is almost considered heresy. The iceberg in this case is the Big Ten and SEC with a nod to the ACC and Big 12.

What will happen to the Power 5 conferences? ›

Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington are leaving in 2024, essentially disbanding one of college football's Power 5 conferences. The conference will remain at 12 teams. UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington leave for the Big Ten.

What will Big 12 look like in 2024? ›

The 2024 season is the first season for the Big 12 to have 16 members, with the departure of Oklahoma and Texas, the return of Colorado after a 13-season absence, and the addition of Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah.

Is Florida State leaving the ACC? ›

Clemson, Florida State will leave ACC in realignment move eventually, analyst predicts. After taking the ACC to court to challenge its huge exit fees, one college football analyst suggests Clemson and Florida State will end up causing the next realignment push.

How will SEC be divided in 2024? ›

In the new SEC, there will no longer be eastern and western divisions. All 16 teams will be lumped together. There will be an SEC Championship Game, which will match the two teams with the best conference records. Everybody else will get a much needed rest.

How will Big Ten realign in 2024? ›

After the Big Ten added the four West Coast schools, the conference announced it would be getting rid of the divisions. Instead, the Big Ten will just be one conference and the top two schools with the best conference records at the end of the 2024 regular season will play each other in the Big Ten Championship.

Is Oregon moving out of the Pac-12? ›

USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington are the other Pac-12 schools which are leaving, as they're going to the Big Ten.

Why is everyone leaving Pac-12? ›

After the Big Ten and SEC's new media rights deals, things did not go as smoothly for the Pac-12. Despite the formation of an alliance between the Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC after Oklahoma and Texas defected to the SEC, USC and UCLA left the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.

Will Pac-12 survive? ›

The Pac-12 is likely to survive with Oregon State and Washington State rebuilding the conference, but it will no longer reside among college sports' super wealthy. The Power Five is now a Power Four, but within that there is a Big Two.

Is Boise State moving conferences? ›

Instead, they are still in the Mountain West and it doesn't seem like that will change in the near future. While it has been reported the Pac-12 is looking to add San Diego State and SMU, the best news Boise State fans have heard is Dan Patrick calling the Broncos' chances a “long shot.”

How many Power 5 conferences are there? ›

The five major college sports conferences, the Big 10, Big 12, Alantic Coast Conference (ACC), Pacific 12, Southeastern Conference, make up the Power 5 Conferences in the US. Photo by Marcel Eberle on Unsplash.

What does 500 mean in college football? ›

500. This means that you are winning half of your games. As a team, you definitely want to be winning more than half of your games which would be “above . 500”.

What is Power 6 conference? ›

Mid-major is a term used in American college sports at the NCAA Division I level, particularly men's basketball, to refer to athletic conferences that are not among the Power Five conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, and ACC) and the Big East, collectively referred to as the Power Six or "high majors".

How many power conferences are there in basketball? ›

For teams in the Power-6 conferences – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, and SEC – this is how you rack up valuable Quad 1 victories and establish yourself not only as a program ready for a spot in the coveted Field of 68, but someone who can advance to the Sweet 16 and beyond.

How many FBS schools are there? ›

This is a list of the 134 schools in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States.

Is rice football power 5? ›

With the ACC's addition of SMU, Rice is now the last former member of the Southwest Conference to not be in a power conference.

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