The Pac-12 is getting a lot of discussion in conference realignment recently, with UCLA and USC headed to the Big Ten in 2024 and recent reports that if the conference’s still-TBA next media deal underwhelms, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah might join the Big 12. That led to quite the comment from Rece Davis on the ESPN College GameDay college basketball preview show Saturday. After setting up ESPN’s early-evening broadcast of the Duke-UNC game (which the show is on location for), Davis shifted his focus to promoting their late night matchup of Arizona-UCLA, but initially joked about it being part of the Big Ten-Big 12 Challenge (which doesn’t actually currently exist, but seems possible following this year’s conclusions to the ACC/Big Ten and SEC/Big 12 challenges):
“Huge game between Arizona and UCLA. Like we might see Duke and Carolina next week [in the ACC Tournament], maybe we’ll see Arizona and UCLA next week again too, in the Big 12/Big Ten challenge.” After the panel breaks out laughing, Davis offers a “Too soon?” He then finishes with “I mean, the Pac-12 championship game. Too soon?”
"Like we might see Duke and Carolina next week, maybe we'll see Arizona and UCLA next week again too, in the Big 12/Big Ten challenge. Too soon?" pic.twitter.com/LU1rt505yH
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) March 4, 2023
On the one hand, that’s a good line. But it’s maybe not as funny if you’re in Pac-12 headquarters, or a fan of the schools not yet linked to leaving Pac-12, especially with it far from confirmed that Arizona is leaving yet. If the Wildcats and those other three teams do actually exit for the Big 12, that could potentially (but not necessarily) spell the end of the Pac-12. So it’s not a subject of mirth for everyone.
Of course, this is less significant than the many various ways ESPN has been accused of being involved in conference realignment over the years. And in some of those, the shoe was on the other foot for the Big 12, with some reports claiming ESPN was “right in the middle of it” when it came to Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 for the SEC (and the conference later sending the network a cease-and-desist). And a Davis joke isn’t as significant as a sitting AD like Baylor’s Mack Rhoades saying on the record that the Big 12 might raid the Pac-12, and it may not even be as significant as other ESPN on-air comments about the Pac-12 over the years (although those weren’t about realignment). But still, referencing one school’s definite future conference and another’s potential future conference before the current conference both play in was quite the thing to see on an ESPN pre-game show, even as a joke.