Arizona is in deep discussions about joining the Big 12, sources told ESPN, with a deal expected to be finalized in the near future.
The school is amid the final steps, sources said, including detailing the move in an Arizona board of regents meeting Thursday night. Big 12 presidents and CEOs met Thursday to vote on approving the move, sources confirmed to ESPN, another sign of the likelihood of it happening.
Barring an unexpected turn in the board of regents meeting, Arizona’s decision is expected be formalized soon, sources said.
Arizona would be the second Pac-12 school to announce its departure for the Big 12 in a week, as Colorado announced last Thursday that it was heading to the league.
The expected move would reduce the Pac-12 to just eight schools, and it emerges on the same day that the Big Ten presidents and chancellors authorized commissioner Tony Petitti to formally explore adding Pac-12 members Oregon and Washington.
The expected move by Arizona has been viewed as a key fulcrum for the future of the Pac-12, which presented a primarily streaming-based deal with Apple to its membership Tuesday. That doesn’t appear to have rallied the league together, as Arizona’s intentions to finalize the deal with the Big 12 have emerged since the Pac-12 presentation. It’s unknown how the move would impact that deal.
The spotlight will quickly shift to Pac-12 members Arizona State and Utah, which could take a few days to determine their future. The Big 12 has also courted them, the final two of the so-called “Corner Schools.” But they always have been on a separate timeline from Colorado and Arizona, which both had meetings with the Big 12 in recent months before jumping aboard.
Arizona State and Utah have been more conservative in their approach, but sources said the tenor on that has changed recently with the flurry of events.
Arizona State president Michael Crow has been a staunch supporter of the Pac-12 and had been a longtime advocate of former commissioner Larry Scott, even after the league’s trajectory went wayward. But the urgency of the league likely being reduced to eight schools has begun to push Crow past his deep loyalty.
Utah has been conservative in its realignment discussions, but the two-time defending Pac-12 football champion appears to also be more open toward Big 12 discussions. More discussions would be necessary for either Arizona State or Utah to move.
Arizona State’s direction could crystalize in the wake of the Arizona board of regents meeting. The meeting quickly moved to executive session, with no public discussion expected. The tenor from the board, which oversees both Arizona and Arizona State, is that there’s a preference that they stay together.
The backdrop of the expected Arizona move comes with the Big Ten exploring adding Oregon and Washington as members. That likelihood increases with each Pac-12 defection. While there exists some resistance from the Big Ten and ambiguity over potential financing, there remains an appeal for the Big Ten to add two members at below a full share.
Yahoo Sports first reported on the Big 12 vote.