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The PAC-12 is close to collapsing after 8 teams leave for other conferences

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

When college football returns later this month, it could be the last hurrah for the PAC-12 conference in its current form. The league has lost over half of its members in short order, and that's putting its future in limbo, as NPR's H.J. Mai reports.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It appears the landscape of college football changing yet again.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: The collapse of the iconic PAC-12 is worrisome.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Things look bleak in the PAC-12 this morning.

H J MAI, BYLINE: In just a little over a year, the PAC-12 has lost eight of its 12 members, including six during the last two weeks. It's a major blow that leaves the league, which has produced more Olympic medalists than any other college sports conference, on life support. And it's all because of the mighty dollar, says Front Office Sports reporter Amanda Christovich.

AMANDA CHRISTOVICH: It's absolutely television money 100%. The PAC-12 ended up really in a terrible position, unable to really get a decent package that would keep the rest of its members from looking elsewhere.

MAI: Without a media rights package that would keep its members on a level playing field with those of the other top conferences, the PAC-12 experienced an exodus that is changing the face of college sports. Oregon and Washington join California powerhouses UCLA and USC and will move to the Big Ten starting in 2024, while Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah become members of the Big 12.

JAMES CREPEA: Ultimately, this is a business, and these schools can no longer afford to be stuck behind and taking less than market value.

MAI: That's James Crepea, who covers Oregon athletics for The Oregonian newspaper. He says the University of Oregon will benefit from higher revenues and a larger recruiting pool as a member of the Big Ten, which has many Ducks fans hopeful for the future.

CREPEA: Overwhelmingly, Oregon fans are extremely excited and energized and enthusiastic about the move.

MAI: And while the big revenue-generating sports of football and men's basketball are set to benefit from the latest reshuffle, it's the smaller sports that could suffer, says Christovich.

CHRISTOVICH: It's unclear whether or not there's going to be enough money to charter them, and it's just going to be very difficult to balance going to school and traveling across the country on a regular basis to play your sport.

MAI: The four remaining PAC-12 schools are now trying to figure out a way forward, but many in the industry believe it's the end for a league that got its start back in 1915.

H.J. Mai, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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