The scheduling partnership between the Pac-12 and Big Ten won't happen after all.
The conferences said Friday that their agreement, announced in December and set to begin in 2017, has been called off because of football scheduling issues involving several Pac-12 schools. A round-robin football schedule, featuring 12 games per year between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, had been the cornerstone of the pact, though it also included elements involving other sports and the two leagues' television networks.
"We are disappointed to announce today that the Big Ten/Pac-12 strategic collaboration announced jointly in December 2011 unfortunately will not be consummated," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement. "We recently learned from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott that the complications associated with coordinating a nonconference football schedule for 24 teams across two conferences proved to be too difficult. Those complications, among other things, included the Pac-12's nine-game conference schedule and previous nonconference commitments.
"A great effort was made by both conference staffs to create football schedules that would address the variety of complexities, but in the end, we were just not able to do so. While everyone at the Big Ten is disappointed by the news, we look forward to continuing the historic partnership that we have with the Pac-12 and to working together on other matters in the future."
ESPN.com has learned that the Pac-12 approached the Big Ten in March and said several of its members had reservations about a mandatory scheduling agreement. The main problem: The Pac-12 currently plays nine league games per season, while the Big Ten plays only eight. Pac-12 members such as USC and Stanford, who both also have annual games against Notre Dame, would have added a Big Ten opponent to an already taxing slate. Other Pac-12 schools have regular scheduling agreements with opponents outside the league, such as Utah-BYU.
The leagues worked on several models, including an initial agreement featuring 10 or 11 games a year in 2017-20 with the idea eventually to reach 12. Another proposal called for six Big Ten/Pac-12 matchups annually, so each team would appear every other year. All Big Ten schools were on board with the collaboration, even though some, like Ohio State, could not begin participating until after 2017.
At least four Pac-12 schools ultimately decided they would not accept mandatory scheduling, ESPN.com has learned. One proposal called for eight matchups per year, featuring the willing Pac-12 schools, but the Big Ten wanted a complete collaboration or none at all.
"After extensive deliberation and consultation with member institutions, television partners and others, the Pac-12 and Big Ten have decided not to pursue the previously announced plans for enhanced scheduling collaboration across all sports," Scott said.
With the Pac-12 agreement dead, the Big Ten will consider increasing its conference games per year from eight to nine, ESPN.com has learned. The league announced a move to nine league games in August but decided to remain at eight after the Pac-12 agreement surfaced. Several Big Ten/Pac-12 matchups already have been scheduled in advance of the 2017 start date, such as Michigan State vs. Oregon, Michigan vs. Utah, and Northwestern vs. Stanford.
The Big Ten also could consider exploring a scheduling agreement with another conference.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.