So, now the Big 12 has finished acquiring Colorado from the Pac-12, what’s next?

Well, there’s a waiting game going on.

It’s a first-class stare down.

The Big 12 strategy is creeping forward. The Pac-12 leadership expects TV deal answers.

And Utah could find itself in the crosshairs of a pecking order.

The Big 12 game plan is rolling.

First, it was get Colorado. Second, see if that triggers some panic by other Pac-12 teams, shaking the solidarity pledge. Third, add at least one more team. 

Back in May, Big 12 presidents, chancellors and athletic directors met in West Virginia and discussed in detail what they wanted out of future expansion. As of last week, the first prong in that design was accomplished when Colorado asked and received an invitation to leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12.

Why Colorado?

Because the Buffs, a previous founding member, had already been talking to the Big 12 commissioner for months prior. Colorado was ripe for the taking for myriad reasons; at the forefront was frustration over the prolonged Pac-12 media rights negotiations.

So, now what?

This week, Big 12 officials anxiously await Pac-12 meetings with the leadership council on Tuesday. There, it is critical that commissioner George Kliavkoff deliver concrete numbers —not theories — for the next league television contract, something he couldn’t do at the league’s football media day July 21.

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There is no evidence Kliavkoff can deliver satisfactory numbers that could include both streaming and linear partners by Tuesday.

Why is this critical? Because after Colorado left, the 12 is down to nine, having lost 25% of its league members. The inventory is diminishing, and with it, so too is the negotiating power.

It seems like a lifetime since CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd wrote an article reporting the Four Corner schools (Arizona, Colorado, Arizona State, and Utah) were talking about possible movement to the Big 12.

It was March 9, to be exact.

The next day, Utah’s athletic director made that famous tweet:  “Give me a break,” in response to Dodd’s column and declaration.

Mark Harlan and Utah and a few of his league peers have been at the forefront of trying to keep Pac-12 loyalties together and intact — despite doing due diligence in exploring alternatives for his school. 

That is noble and respectful.

Now comes the necessity of moving forward — staying in a sinking lifeboat or accepting a lifeline.

What has now emerged as the focal point in the post-Colorado move is a pecking order.  

If there is more movement out of the Pac-12, who are the most desired brands?

And if the Big Ten decides to take advantage of a fracture in the ACC and makes moves to poach teams, what is the desired target pecking order? Some say Washington and Oregon would be there with Clemson and Florida State.

Well, that’s an entirely different discussion. And remember this, why would Fox and ESPN pay a premium price for Oregon and Washington in the Big Ten if they could get them discounted as members the Big 12?

Out West, the pecking order for the Big 12 appears to be:

  1. Arizona: While the football program has struggled, the Wildcats’ elite basketball program fits the tradition of the NCAA’s No. 1 basketball conference. Plus, behind Colorado, Arizona has had longer and deeper discussions with the Big 12 than the others. The Wildcats would give the Big 12 a foot in the Pacific time zone (albeit through November), a stated goal of the Big 12 for almost a year. Get UA and the league might be done. For now.
  2. Oregon: The Oregon Ducks brand, with the help of Nike, is arguably the best overall athletic program that would fit the guidelines and value the Big 12 is looking for. A recruiting powerhouse, the Ducks are a threat to USC in recruiting grounds in the West. The Trojans would be expected to reject an Oregon application once they had a vote as a member of the Big 10, thus making Big 12 membership attractive if no Pac-12 media deal is reached. The Ducks would give the Big 12 a coast-to-coast brand, a stated goal.
  3. Washington: The Husky brand is huge and ranked right alongside Oregon. This duo in the Northwest are most often mentioned as the most coveted properties in the Pac-12. A defection of Oregon, leaving eight Pac-12 teams, would be a death blow to the league and a Washington departure would be dirt on the coffin. 
  4. Utah: The two-time defending Pac-12 football champion has been a regular member of the top 10-ranked football programs in recent years and has the momentum the Big 12 needs to gain more football credibility after Oklahoma and Texas leave after this season. It would also reinstate the BYU-Utah rivalry, recognized as one of the top in the country.
  5. UConn: While not a popular choice with many Big 12 members because of its struggling football brand, the Huskies are the defending NCAA champion for the fifth time. The women’s hoop program is considered the best in the nation. The proximity to the New York City market and Northeast coastal TV markets is a big deal to Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark. With Arizona and UConn basketball in the Big 12, the league’s basketball prowess, while not the most lucrative compared with football, would be dominant. 
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The Big 12 will likely add one more team in this rotation but that could change depending on the properties involved and availability. 

I think Arizona in on the clock and the Wildcats could be next.

If this is indeed the game of dominoes and the Pac-12 is in as dire trouble as reported from coast to coast, the pressure is on for some big-time decision-making this week.

Indeed, there are many who will need someone to give them a break.

The Big 12 Conference logo is seen during game between Missouri and Western Illinois, Sept. 17, 2011, in Columbia, Mo. With Colorado leaving the Pac-12, will other Pac-12 teams, like Utah, soon follow? | Jeff Roberson, Associated Press
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