Thamel's realignment buzz: Latest on Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is under pressure to deliver a TV deal that keeps Arizona, Arizona State and Utah in the fold. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Nearly two months ago in Washington, D.C., University of Arizona president Bobby Robbins sat on a panel with NCAA president Charlie Baker at an event Arizona organized about the future of college sports.

Little did Robbins know that within a few weeks, he'd be a central figure in determining the actual landscape of how college athletics is currently constructed.

With Colorado announcing its departure for the Big 12 last week, the future of the Pac-12 is uncertain. Commissioner George Kliavkoff has long told potential television partners he'd need clarity on what a television deal could look like by July 31.

The Pac-12 presidents are expected to meet Tuesday to finally get from Kliavkoff what they hope is a strong vision of what the league's television deal will look like.

"The expectation is these schools want clarity and details on a number and that a deal is going to eventually get done," said an industry source. "They want to know, 'What are our deal options?'"

Arizona has been at the forefront for a potential move to the Big 12, as it had the most extensive talks with the league prior to the Colorado departure. A move by Arizona to the Big 12 would significantly weaken the Pac-12, putting an unstable league on the brink. And no one realizes this more than Robbins.

"He knows the gravity," said a person familiar with Robbins' thinking. "He does not want to be the one to break apart the Pac-12."

That's why sources say Arizona, Arizona State and Utah -- the Pac-12's remaining three of the so-called Four Corner schools -- are expected to lump their futures together.

As another industry source pointed out: "I don't see any of them having the fortitude to break up the Pac-12 themselves. They'll break as three. It's either going to be all three leave, or none leave."

Will they stay? Will they go?

It all depends on what Kliavkoff presents on Tuesday as he looks to convince them there's a deal with enough money and exposure to stay together.

The Pac-12's deal expires after the upcoming school year, which would mean every school could walk without paying any type of exit fee. Just like USC, UCLA and now Colorado are doing.

Given the complexities of any additional moves, and the deliberate pace at which universities tend to operate, there's likely not going to be any hard-and-fast decisions on Tuesday night. But the start of this week is going to set the table for the Pac-12's stability and viability going forward.

What would it look like in the Big 12 if Arizona, Arizona State and Utah all joined the conference? Sources have indicated the Big 12 would work with its media partners to figure out a way to make the economics work.

Much of this ends up on Robbins' plate because he's the most entrenched of the presidents involved in the three remaining corner schools.

The tenor has changed from what Robbins said two months ago: "I'm not anxious about this," he said in Washington, D.C. "I know it's important. I have full confidence we're going to get where we need to be."

How could things unfold from here? As always with realignment, there are myriad possibilities with serious ripple effects for the Pac-12, Big 12, ACC and beyond.

What's next for the Pac-12?