Is the Pac-12 actually still stable? Here’s what TV numbers say in relation to the Big 12
The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel drew five conclusions about the viability of the Pac-12 moving forward without USC and UCLA
Ever since USC and UCLA left the Pac-12 for the Big Ten out of the blue last month, there has been a great deal of discussion about the future stability of the Pac-12, with much of the conversation ending up at TV ratings for college football the remaining 10 conference teams pull in.
On Monday, The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel took a dive into the Nielsen TV ratings numbers since 2015 (using data previously compiled by his colleague Andy Staples) and compared them to the Big 12’s numbers sans departing Texas and Oklahoma and incoming BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.
Mandel considered games that were aired on ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and ESPNU. From the data, Mandel drew five conclusions about the viability of the Pac-12 moving forward without USC and UCLA, at least as it relates to TV ratings.
Here’s what he found:
- The departures of USC and UCLA are “not as catastrophic” for the Pac-12 as the departures of Texas and Oklahoma will be for the Big 12.
- Oregon is the biggest draw out of any team in the future versions of either the Pac-12 or Big 12, but perhaps in a surprise, Stanford is ahead of No. 3 Washington. Washington State, Colorado and Utah of the Pac-12 have also had better ratings than any Big 12 school (Oklahoma State leads the way).
- All schools in the Pac-12 have averaged over 1.2 million viewers per game except Arizona and Oregon State, which have averaged 815,000 and 723,000, respectively.
- “Pac-12 After Dark” could help save the conference. To illustrate this point, Mandel noted that in 2021, conference teams appeared on 12 ESPN games that started at 10 p.m. ET or later. Those 12 games averaged 1.34 million viewers, and only two didn’t break a million.
- In his final catch-all point, Mandel wrote that “the Pac-12 may be in better shape than one would have assumed three weeks ago — provided it can keep the remaining 10 schools together,” and that ESPN will “likely” offer an “enticing” TV deal, even if doesn’t come “anywhere close” to the deals the Big Ten and SEC will get.
Mandel’s final paragraph: “Like the Pac-12, the rebuilt Big 12 is to be determined. But based on the ratings numbers in this story, it’s hard to see why the Pac-12 would be in a weaker position.”
Here is how the Pac-12 and Big 12 schools have ranked in TV ratings for games Mandel examined since 2015:
- Washington State.
- Oklahoma State.
- Arizona State.
- West Virginia.
- Iowa State.
- Texas Tech.
- Kansas State.
- Oregon State.