Sources: Pac-12 Bowls Exploring Tie-In Options With Other Conferences
David Becker/Getty Images. Pictured: The Las Vegas Bowl logo.
All five bowls with Pac-12 tie-ins have begun discussions with other conferences about changing to a different conference affiliation for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, sources told Action Network.
The five bowls — Alamo, Las Vegas, Holiday, Sun and Los Angeles — are under contract to select a Pac-12 team for the next three years. However, because the Pac-12 will lose two-thirds of its membership after this season, the bowls’ contracts allow them to revisit those deals, sources said.
After losing eight of its 12 members in the past 13 months, the Pac-12 has an uncertain future. Can it add schools to remain a conference after 2024, will it merge with another conference, or will it become some kind of Frankenstein-type configuration by adding various schools from different leagues?
“No matter what schools the Pac-12 adds, there will be major changes in the league’s make-up, so that allows us to align with a different conference,” a bowl source said.
Added another source: “No offense, but we didn’t sign up for a Pac-12 bowl deal without USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, Utah, et cetera, et cetera.”
Ironically, the Rose Bowl — which has historically been a Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup — will not be impacted by the Pac-12’s defections. That’s because last year was the final traditional Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup, which featured Utah and Penn State.
This season, the Rose Bowl will host a College Football Playoff semifinal, and then after the 2024 and 2025 seasons, the Rose Bowl will host a quarterfinal in the 12-team playoff.
When the new 12-team playoff contract begins in 2026, the expectation is the New Year’s 6 bowls (including the Rose Bowl) will host a quarterfinal or semifinal. So, the traditional Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup already is a thing of the past — possibly like the Pac-12.
Here are the Pac-12 bowl matchups and my projected bowl tie-ins for 2024 and 2025:
- Alamo Bowl (currently Pac-12 vs. Big 12)
- Projected Alamo Bowl: SEC or Big Ten vs. Big 12
The San Antonio bowl has a payout that would rank among the top bowl selections in either the SEC or Big Ten. And with the SEC adding a certain team from the Lone Star State and moving next year’s media days to Dallas, the SEC may look at adding another Texas bowl along with the Texas Bowl in Houston. Also, don’t discount the Big Ten wanting a presence in Texas.
- Las Vegas Bowl (currently Pac-12 vs. SEC/Big Ten rotation)
- Projected Las Vegas Bowl: Big 12 vs. SEC/Big Ten rotation)
With the Big 12 adding five teams in the Mountain Time Zone, the Big 12 makes the most sense to replace the Pac-12 — especially since the Las Vegas Bowl is solid on the other side with the SEC in 2024 and the Big Ten in 2025.
- Holiday Bowl (currently Pac-12 vs. ACC)
- Projected Holiday Bowl: Big Ten or Big 12 vs. ACC
With the Holiday Bowl’s pending lawsuit against the Pac-12 seeking $3 million in damages, it's a virtual lock the San Diego-based Holiday Bowl will move on from the Pac-12, if able, after the 2023 season. With FOX as its TV partner, the Holiday could have an inside edge for either the Big Ten or the Big 12 against the ACC.
- Sun Bowl (currently Pac-12 vs. ACC)
- Projected Sun Bowl: Big Ten or Big 12 vs. ACC
Like the Las Vegas Bowl, the El Paso bowl benefits from five of the Big 12’s newest members coming from Arizona, Utah and Colorado. It also doesn’t hurt that four other members are in Texas. Besides the Big 12, the Sun Bowl could be an option for the Big Ten as the only bowl game televised by CBS.
- Los Angeles Bowl (currently Pac-12 vs Mountain West champ)
- Projected Los Angeles Bowl: Absolutely no clue, especially if the Pac-12 and Mountain West merge.
This one is impossible to project without knowing (a) if the Pac-12 exists after 2023, or (b) if the Mountain West exists after 2023. A merger between the two leagues is possible, so the bowl would have to find another conference to fill one of the spots.
There are several unknowns for all the bowls. For instance, the NCAA currently limits the number of bowl tie-ins per conference based on the historical average number of bowl teams provided each year.
That, of course, was based on past conference membership before Oklahoma and Texas left for the SEC, all the defections from the Pac-12 and other recent moves in the AAC, Sun Belt and Conference USA.
The NCAA Football Oversight Committee will address whether to increase those limits or leave it up to each conference at a future time, a source said.
The Las Vegas and Alamo Bowls released statements regarding the Pac-12 partnership. The Sun Bowl will meet today to discuss its options.
“We haven’t had any conversations yet because we wanted to see how things shook out,” Las Vegas executive director John Saccenti said. “We will be meeting as a group this week to discuss all options and talk to our stakeholders and our conference partners.”
Added Alamo Bowl president/CEO Derrick Fox: “At the appropriate time, we will engage in discussions about 2024 and beyond with our partner conferences to ensure the continued success of our event.”
Another unknown for the bowls is what selection they would receive if they acquire a new conference tie-in. The current bowls for each conference have contracts that determine what selection they make, so a bowl wouldn’t simply volunteer to pick a lower selection.
“Is the conference going to honor the selection order, or will the (conference) commissioner try to get everyone to ‘Kumbaya it’ and agree to do what’s best for the conference?” a bowl source said. “If a bowl wants to fight it, then the conference can not so subtly remind them that they’ll be starting new contracts in 2026 and can hold their feet to the fire.”
Another source said with the growing size of the conferences — the Big Ten will have 18 members, the SEC and Big 12 will have 16 members each — starting in 2024, one very real possibility could be having two teams from the same conference meeting in bowl games if they didn’t play in the regular season.
“This all will be a tremendous undertaking,” a source said. “What is going to be the practical outcome of all this?”
Like the future of the Pac-12, that remains unknown.