Pac-12 might be dead, but its former teams still might have to play in Pac-12 bowls

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The Pac-12 might be gone, but it won’t be forgotten during bowl season. According to Action Network’s Brett McMurphy, the 10 schools that left the Pac-12 this season will still play in Pac-12 affiliated bowl games instead of their new conference’s bowl tie-in.

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Contracts between conferences and bowls do not end until the 2025 season. With Oregon State and Washignton State as the only two remaining Pac-12 schools in 2024, the Pac-12’s six bowl affiliations cannot be met without participation from the old schools.

2023 saw the near-complete dismantling of the Pac-12 due to conference realignment. USC and UCLA brokered an agreement to leave for the Big Ten, with Oregon and Washington following them shortly thereafter. Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado all left for the Big 12, while Stanford and Cal left for the ACC.

Currently, the easiest solution would be to have the 10 absconded schools fill in the remaining spots.

“Out of a series of not-great options, the most workable — short of blowing up the bowl system and the (35 non-playoff) bowl contracts — is to have the former Pac-12 schools sent to Pac-12 bowls for two more years,” an anonymous source told Action Network.

Some stakeholders, however, are not as keen on the idea. The inclusion of multiple conferences likely means that bowl selection for these would not be able to be determined by conference record the way they normally would. One alternate solution might by allowing the bowls to hand-pick their participating Pac-12 team, allowing a bowl to pick a 7-5 team over a 10-2 team. Current bowl contracts with conferences forbid teams from skipping over teams with at least two fewer wins

The Pac-12’s current remaining bowl affiliations are the Alamo, Holiday, Las Vegas, Sun, and Los Angeles for the next two years, with the addition of the Independence Bowl in 2024 and an ESPN-affiliated bowl in 2025.

Most of these bowls feature Power Five conferences that just took on former Pac-12 teams, throwing another wrinkle into bowl planning. The Holiday and Sun Bowls both feature ACC teams opposite the Pac-12, meaning their planners would likely not want to have Cal or Stanford as the Pac-12 representative. The 2025 Las Vegas Bowl is against the Big Ten, which would likely not feature USC, UCLA, Oregon, or Washington in the Pac-12 slot.

The Alamo Bowl — a Pac-12 vs. Big 12 matchup — is especially unique from a matchup perspective. According to the Action Network, the uncertainty around the Pac-12’s bowl status has led to Alamo Bowl officials wanting to lock in Oklahoma and Texas as the Big 12 representatives for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. The only problem is both teams just left the Big 12 for the SEC. Both the SEC and Big 12 currently oppose this proposal, but there is a small possibility we get conference expats on both sides of the bowl. Fans will unfortunately be robbed of the chance to see an all-Big-Ten Rose Bowl because the game is now part of the College Football Playoff.

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