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This is a different kind of March Madness, transcending even the much-beloved NCAA basketball tournament.

Ever since USC and UCLA announced that they are bolting the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, reports, rumors and speculation have percolated. In recent weeks, the noise has been amplified — as the national media is reporting new developments — and some monumental decisions could be made later this month.

Broadcast contracts are expiring, the landscape of college sports is evolving at a rapid pace, and everyone is looking to solidify their place in this brave new world, especially in a financial sense. It’s about survival and ensuring future prosperity.

At the center of a lot of the attention is the University of Utah’s home, the Pac-12. What is going on with the Pac-12’s ongoing media rights deal? Will the remaining Pac-12 schools continue to band together? Will there be defections to the Big 12? Will the league expand?

“The Pac-12 media negotiations may have entered the ninth month, but this week a few interesting twists and turns did shake out for those keen to follow this turtle race,” Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon wrote. “It is widely reported the Pac-12 is looking for a streaming partner like Amazon, Disney or Apple to be a major component of its broadcast deal, and ESPN could end up supplementing the package. Athletic director Ray Anderson of Arizona State and Washington State president Kirk Schulz confirmed to media sources that a deal needs to wrap up immediately — as in March.”

Answers could come soon. It’s a different kind of March Madness.

In case you missed it

The Deseret News’ Jay Drew penned an engrossing in-depth profile of Utah basketball star Branden Carlson this week. Carlson’s future hangs in the balance as the Runnin’ Utes entered postseason play.

“The fourth-year Runnin’ Ute and two-time All-Pac-12 performer told the Deseret News last week that he hasn’t decided yet whether he will take advantage of an NCAA-allowed extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic altering the 2020-21 season and return to Utah next season, or try his hand at professional basketball,” Drew wrote.

Numbers game

16.0: Team-leading scoring average for Utah basketball star Branden Carlson.

7.4: Team-leading rebounding average for Carlson.

24: Age Carlson will turn in June.

From the archives

Related
Meet the Olympian who will lead Utes into the NCAA Skiing Championships
The 2023 season isn’t over yet, but 2024 now looks very promising for Utah
How Utah ties Noah Sewell, Siaki Ika performed in NFL combine drills

Extra points

  • Utah women’s basketball: Washington State hands No. 3 Utes stunning 66-58 loss in Pac-12 quarterfinals (Deseret News)
  • There was a lot more going on than just gymnastics for Utah against Arizona (Deseret News)
  • ‘Catch lightning in a bottle’: Runnin’ Utes still believe they can make a run in Pac-12 tournament this week (Deseret News)
  • What needs to happen for Utah to win the Pac-12? (Deseret News)
  • How Runnin’ Utes fared when All-Pac-12 men’s basketball awards were handed out on eve of conference tournament (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Getting a conference game in every time zone and major media market will be a mistake in the long run. When the regional rivalries are all dissolved people will lose interest and it will all collapse. I would much rather tune in for BYU-Utah than for BYU-Cincinnati or Utah-WSU.

— CapitalJ

Nobody knows what will happen in five years, but unless a miracle happens the P12 is breaking up sooner than later. Probably within months if $22M is the best TV deal.

— Chessermesser

Nothing has changed since last July when the Four Corner schools plan first appeared. Pac-12 members will get two offers. If the Big 12 can offer significantly more money, they may get some bona fide P5 schools to join.

Adding 4 P5 schools drops the Big 12 per team share to $28M. Adding more could drop it to $26M. Does a couple million difference cover the added costs of East Coast travel? The Pac-12 ADs will decide through ... due diligence.

— SoonerUte

Up next

March 10 | 4 p.m. | Softball | vs. Oregon State | @Salt Lake City

March 11 | 2 p.m. | Softball | vs. Oregon State | @Salt Lake City

March 11 | 3 p.m. | Gymnastics | vs. Oregon State | @Corvallis, Oregon | Pac-12 Network

March 12 | Noon | Softball | vs. Oregon State | @Salt Lake City

Utah guard Gianna Kneepkens shoots against Washington State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 women’s tournament Thursday, March 2, 2023, in Las Vegas. The Utes fell to the Cougars and will learn their NCAA seed and opponent on Selection Sunday. | David Becker, Associated Press