LOS ANGELES — This is shaping up to be a Pac-12 football media day unlike any other.

That’s because since the bombshell news that USC and UCLA will be bolting the league in 2024 for the Big Ten dropped on June 30, everybody’s been reporting on and speculating about the future of the conference.

We haven’t heard much publicly from Pac-12 leadership. 

On July 5, amid rumors about discussions between Pac-12 teams, including Utah, and the Big 12, a high-ranking Utah official refuted that to the Deseret News, calling the rumors “absolutely false.” That source added that Utah “is tethered closely and strongly aligned with Pac-12 leadership and league members.”

Meanwhile, a possible merger between the Pac-12 and Big 12 dissolved a couple of weeks ago. So what will the Pac-12 do next? Could the league expand?

The Pac-12 also began negotiations for its next media rights deal, an exclusive 30-day window with current partners ESPN and Fox before another bidder can come forward. That window closes Aug. 4. 

Some are predicting the demise of the Pac-12. There’s speculation that some Pac-12 programs are looking for options — a new conference to call home. There is a report the Big Ten is evaluating Cal, Oregon, Stanford and Washington as possible expansion targets. And things could get a little awkward, what with USC and UCLA remaining in the conference for two more years.

With all that as a backdrop, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff will address the media and field tough questions Friday morning at the Novo Theater in Los Angeles as part of annual football media day festivities. 

Is the Pac-12 actually still stable? Here’s what TV numbers say in relation to the Big 12
Future of Pac-12: ‘Everyone is shopping right now’
Have ‘goalposts been moved’ on Utah again?

As Pac-12 insider John Canzano wrote, “Kliavkoff’s speech will be the most anticipated and attended in the history of the conference’s annual football hype-fest. If he wants to win it, he’ll need to do more than cast a strong presence. He’ll need to get candid and share his vision. Last month, the Pac-12 got ditched by UCLA and USC, tentpoles of the very market that Friday’s event is held in. The conference is now in crisis-management mode, seeking a path forward while engaged in a 30-day negotiating window with ESPN and Fox.”

The preseason All-Pac-12 teams were released Tuesday, and the preseason poll is expected to be released Friday. The Utes are the defending Pac-12 champions. Will they be picked to repeat? The preseason poll was voted on by media members that cover Pac-12 football. 

The head coaches and two players from each Pac-12 school — Utah will be represented by coach Kyle Whittingham, quarterback Cam Rising and cornerback Clark Phillips III — will attend and talk to reporters and media outlets throughout the day Friday. 

While there’s a lot of anticipation for the upcoming season, everyone wants answers to questions about the future of the Pac-12. 

The Big Ten held its football media day earlier in the week and commissioner Kevin Warren only stirred the realignment pot with his comments. The Big Ten has already poached USC and UCLA. Is it interested in taking more programs from the Pac-12? 

There’s a report that if the Big Ten were to expand again, it has its sights set on the following candidates: Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Cal, Miami and Florida State.

Is Big 12 really a ‘step down’ from the Pac-12?
How much value do Utah and BYU bring compared to other Power Five schools?

“We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic, it will add additional value to our conference, and it will provide a platform to even have our student-athletes be put on a larger platform so they can build their careers but also that they have an opportunity to grow and learn from an education and from an athletic standpoint,” Warren said. “We are in a perpetual state of evaluating what’s next for college athletics, what’s next for the Big Ten Conference, what’s next for College Football Playoff, what’s next for the NCAA, what’s next for the Transformation Committee, and what’s next for the future of how we operate in this environment called college athletics.

“Our bowls, our partnerships. … Media rights, we’ve been working on those. I’m incredibly pleased with where we are. We have great opportunities. We’re finalizing our deals, and I look forward to standing before you to make an announcement sometime here, sooner than later.”

Warren also touted the importance of soon adding the Pacific time zone to the league. 

“I think sometimes later time zones on the West Coast, people looked at it as a negative, and I always looked at it as a positive,” he said. “So for us in the Big Ten to be — we’re in four time zones, we will be in 2024: East, Central, Mountain and West. So now we’ll be able to provide content all the way from the morning into the night and lead into some really incredible programming. So I think the value of being across four time zones for multiple reasons is really important.” 

While Kliavkoff, who has been on the job for only one year, is the spokesman for the conference, he only represents the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors. Some blame him for the league losing the lucrative Los Angeles market and two marquee programs. 

“But who is to blame for the situation the Pac-12 finds itself in right now? The troubles for the Pac-12 were born well beyond Kliavkoff’s first 365 days on the job. The presidents and chancellors who enabled and tolerated the act of ex-commissioner Larry Scott hold a large share of the blame. He overspent, failed to adequately position the Pac-12, and got lapped by the SEC and Big Ten in the race for media-rights dollars,” Canzano wrote. “Scott put the Pac-12 on a perilous path, while sipping a glass of Dom Pérignon on a chartered flight.

“But the presidents and chancellors who hired Scott and left him unsupervised for a decade are equally culpable. Many of them are long gone, though. Only UCLA’s Gene Block and Arizona State’s Michael Crow are still around. I’d love to hear an explanation from that duo on Friday.”

Should be interesting to see how Kliavkoff responds, and frames the state of the Pac-12 Friday.

It figures to be a Pac-12 football media day unlike any other.