Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff would like the teams in his conference to play one fewer conference game. That's not as easy of a change as you may think.
Teams in the Pac-12 play nine conference games per season like the Big Ten and the Big 12. Teams in the ACC and the SEC play eight games. The extra non-conference game in the SEC and ACC is an opportunity for those teams to potentially schedule a lucrative neutral site game or a home game against a weaker opponent to get a win toward bowl eligibility.
Kliavkoff recognizes that and would love for his teams to have a chance to play another non-conference game. But the way college football teams create their schedules years and even decades in advance makes that change hard to implement. If the Pac-12 announced that it were going to an eight-game conference schedule for its teams in 2023 or even 2024, those teams would have a difficult time finding opponents with most teams' schedules locked in for the near future.
We’re not ready to announce anything, but I’ve been public about the fact we’re ready to go from nine conference games to eight immediately," Kliavkoff told the Los Angeles Times. "The issue is everybody else is booked. We would not be able to fill those games in if we decided to do that. The fastest path to get there is if the Big Ten decided to do the same thing, and then we could just schedule 12 games against the Big Ten, and we’d be happy to do that for next season. The Big Ten is not ready to make that move yet, and it’s not my place to put them on a timeline to do that. They’re in the middle of their media rights negotiations. The minute the Big Ten is ready to play 12 games against us every year, we’re ready."
Kliavkoff made his comments about the eight-game schedule to the Times as part of a wide-ranging interview following his first football season as commissioner. The Pac-12 had one of its worst seasons in years and failed to win a bowl game in 2021. The 0-5 bowl season was capped off by Ohio State's second-half comeback in a 48-45 win over Utah.
The Big Ten's television contracts currently expire in 2024 and the conference could be in line for more money from television networks as live sports rights continue to be some of the most valuable properties in television. Nine conference games could be a key to getting as much money as possible too. Networks like Fox and ESPN find games like Ohio State against Purdue more attractive than Ohio State against a smaller school with less appeal and alumni base.
A scheduling deal with the Pac-12 could help make eight games far more palatable, however. The Big Ten and Pac-12 historically play each other in multiple bowl games per season and have a longstanding rivalry with each other. Games like USC vs. Michigan and Oregon vs. Penn State would be extremely appealing to TV networks. We're on board if the Big Ten and Pac-12 want to make this happen sometime soon.