Gordon Monson: Are the Utah Utes gamblers? The Pac-12 is about to find out.

If the conference picks Apple TV for its next media deal, it will come with plenty of uncertainty.

(Meg Oliphant | Special to The Tribune) Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) talks with his teammates ahead of the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Rose Bowl Stadium on Jan. 2, 2023 in Pasadena, Calif.

Sing a requiem for the Pac-12.

Or … wait, don’t.

Celebrate a new stable chapter for the league.

Or … wait, don’t.

Hold those thoughts until our next meeting … and the next one … and the one after that. And in the meantime, think about selling subscriptions. Can Pac-12 schools sign Lionel Messi? It might help.

Man, oh, man, these media rights deals can’t be rushed, even as, after the announced departures of USC and UCLA, Colorado has bolted, too. Who’s next to jump out of the pool? Utah? Arizona? Arizona State? Nobody? Nobody State?

Here’s what we know so far:

• Commissioner George Kliavkoff presented conference leaders with details of a new media rights deal on Tuesday.

• The value of a deal with Apple TV, reported to be the leading option, would depend on the number of subscriptions sold and purchased. Safe to say it would initially be worth less than the $31.7 million a year the Big 12 got for its schools.

Let’s cogitate and consider some more before any firm conclusions are arrived at. Sure, they’ve been a long time coming and that time, after Tuesday’s meeting among Pac-12 school presidents ended without a vote, has been extended again.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor did its empire collapse in a day.

These things must be pondered, yawned at, must be managed.

The ones who lose in negotiations often are the ones in a hurry.

Pac-12 presidents are reaching new heights, then, in the slow play.

A deal with Apple will not bring in Big 12 money, and will not provide the same exposure of a major network, not right away anyway, but the promise of the future and what might come of it is … what’s the word? … strong? … unsure? … unreliable? … bank? … foolish?

The promise of the future.

That sounds uncomfortably familiar — like what former commish Larry Scott said about the Pac-12 Networks’ bright-but-not-yet-realized and, as it turned out, never-realized future. That gamble — propping up and maintaining its own networks, outside of partnership with established ones — is part of what put the Pac-12 in a disadvantageous financial position to begin with.

The Pac-12 likes to see itself as an association of forward-thinking schools, institutions with vision. And that’s good … unless it’s not.

And based on reports out of Tuesday, the aforementioned considerations will have to take into account that uncertainty, not just for the league, but for each individual school that’s currently still a part of it.

What will the monetary return be? Well, it depends.

Some folks predict that streaming is the ascending road to take for college sports in the years ahead, both in terms of money and exposure, the two tentpoles administrators want the most. Linear TV, those people say, is or will be an outdated base for those tentpoles.

In the meantime, though, schools in other leagues are on pace to haul in massive amounts of cash from the very thing lacking in the Pac-12′s potential deal. If traditional TV is so yesterday, it sure is providing a huge boost for schools in the Big Ten, the SEC and the Big 12 today and tomorrow.

Can the Pac-12 leftovers capture the imagination — and the subscription dollars from viewers — by way of Apple to make staying together a good proposition? Roll those dice, baby. Momma needs a new pair of shoes.

Making matters worse for the Pac-12 is the lingering appetite of the Big 12, a conference eager to gobble up schools. It might not be eager to be blamed for killing the Pac-12, but it isn’t all that bashful about the notion of taking a chunk out of it.

What would you do if you were Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, or, for that matter, Oregon and Washington? Take an invitation elsewhere and the cash that comes with it to keep the tent raised, all tall and proud, same as it ever was, or count on a day out yonder somewhere, on technology that, depending on future habits and trends and willingness to spend, may be productive and lucrative?

This much likely could be considered fact — if the Big Ten reaches out, whatever school it touches is gone. The Big 12? We’ll see.

What would be further incentive for Pac-12 schools to remain where they are, beyond what’s already been stated? Staying together with the schools already in the club out of some sense of old-fashioned prestige or loyalty, counting on traditional association on the one hand while relying on less-traditional methods for competitive and financial profit on the other?

We know how Colorado felt about all that, what USC and UCLA thought.

They purposely and resolutely got out of dirty Dodge.

They’ll take the stability and the sweet mountains of money that sit right in front of them, and possibly be in a position to capitalize on more modern means later, as they come.

Objective observers, despite the Pac-12′s arrogance and ineptitude of the past, do not want to see the self-proclaimed Conference of Champions become the self-inflicted Conference of Chump Change. And only those mentioned outfits that would be put at advantage at the Pac-12′s demise want to see the league blow apart.

But as one CU administrator said it, his primary responsibility was looking out for the best interests of … Colorado. That’s what every useful administrator at every school thinks, whether they come out and say it or not.

The dilemma those administrators face is real, we get it. We also get the end game, understanding what every school seeks, what every school needs, what every school grubs.

This isn’t about academics. It’s not about tradition or location or partnerships of the past or brotherhood or sisterhood or some highfalutin sense of superiority. It’s about money and winning, probably in that order. It’s about staying afloat in the choppy competitive waters of modern college sports.

Where Utah, one of the most publicly adamant schools about staying in the Pac-12, sits in that equation, that flotation, now is the next big question.

As the Utes — and others — compare what might be in the Pac in connection with Apple with what is in the Big 12, will truck stops with sure stacks be more appealing than beach towns with palms turned up and pockets turned out, with subs to sell?

And what if the Big Ten does come after Washington and Oregon? What would that mean for Utah? If Arizona and ASU lean away? Would loneliness — and risk — set in? The Utes do not want to be left with their shorts flapping in the breeze, having to hug up with what’s left of the Pac-12 and Mountain West schools.

The Utes shouldn’t be placed in that kind of predicament, and, if school administrators have properly done their diligence, they’ve already graded the road to a better end. If that end is staying put and betting on the Pac-12, they had best be sure beyond reasonable doubt.

Certainly, Utah has elevated its athletics, led out by football, to be worthy of the best it can get. What it should not do is hang onto traditional notions about wanting to be partners with universities like Stanford and Cal, each of which has allowed their football programs to erode.

All the back-and-forth between Utah fans and BYU fans, about the Utes not wanting to be associated with the Cougars, an association that they deem to be beneath them, is hollow trash talk. There may be some administrators and coaches who buy into that same nonsense, but the truth is, the Utes can continue their ascent toward the top levels of college football in the Big 12, just as they climbed in the Pac-12. Looking for an easier path to the College Football Playoff through a broken Pac-12 isn’t the answer. Not if the financial boost every program benefits from is in arrears compared to contemporaries.

So, for the time being, there it sits.

Think hard — hard, hard, hard — and yawn away until everybody meets again, if everybody meets again. And then, at last, perhaps a firm decision will be in mind and in hand, and new surroundings can be found or a billion subscriptions can be sold.

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