Pac-12, Mountain West merger is ‘not off the table,’ commissioner says

Cal, Stanford have also been in talks with the Atlantic Coast Conference.

(Bizuayehu Tesfaye | Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP) Mountain West Conference commissioner Gloria Nevarez speaks during NCAA college football media days in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Mountain West Commissioner Gloria Nevarez said a merger between the MWC and Pac-12 is “not off the table,” in an interview with On3 on Thursday.

“It’s not off the table, but we have a lot of questions,” Nevarez said. “It is like buying a house. You wouldn’t buy a house without a complete inspection. So there’s just a lot of questions, and they’re the type of questions that I think the Pac-12 or the remaining schools in the Pac-12 need to have time to figure out.

“Then also questions for us about assets and liabilities and fit and what’s really there. But certainly – absolutely everything’s still on the table.”

The Pac-12 has just four remaining schools in the conference for the 2024 season — Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State, after Oregon, Washington, USC and UCLA announced they’re joining the Big Ten, and Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah joined the Big 12.

Stanford and Cal have been linked to the ACC, but the potential move “hit significant roadblocks” on Wednesday night, according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel. Oregon State and Washington State also make logical sense to join the MWC.

On Wednesday, the Mountain West released a statement that confirmed it’s exploring all opportunities to strengthen the league. “I think anywhere from one to four,” Nevarez said in the interview on the MWC’s target number of expansion teams. “We’re actually pretty good where we are. But, obviously, you want to be capitalistic in this environment.

“And so both any opportunities that result from the movement in the Pac-12, but also, we have had on the docket, we actually pushed forward a membership subcommittee meeting to continue to explore the next phase, next-generation schools in case we lost schools during this round.”

One significant downgrade for joining the Mountain West for the remaining Pac-12 schools is the TV contract payout. In 2021-22, the Pac-12 ranked last among Power Five conferences in payout at $37 million per school, compared to the Mountain West’s $4 million.

Nevarez said the MWC swinging and missing on potential additions would be a missed opportunity, but also stated that as of now, the conference would not dissolve.

“I don’t know if disappointed is the word,” she said. “It would feel like a missed opportunity for sure. These are four schools used to receiving $30 million a year. We are not in that stratosphere.

“But I certainly think we could provide an excellent landing place for those in need.”