On Friday, multiple major news outlets such as ESPN and Action Network reported that the University of Arizona, Arizona State and the University of Utah would be leaving the PAC-12 and joining the BIG 12 Conference in 2024.
The BIG 12's school presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to add the three schools to their conference on Friday night. The conference later announced (officially) the addition of the three schools.
Arizona, Arizona State and Utah are now the fourth, fifth and sixth schools to depart from the PAC-12 Conference in the last week. And since last year, that number of lost conference members is now at eight.
In late July, news broke that the University of Colorado was also joining the BIG 12. And on Friday, numerous sources reported that both Oregon and Washington are expected to leave the PAC-12 for the BIG 10 in 2024.
It should also be noted that UCLA and USC announced in the summer of 2022 that they were leaving the conference in 2024 to also join the BIG 10.
The mass number of departures from the PAC-12 stems from the conference's lack of a long-term media rights deal. And after Friday morning's failed attempt to agree on a media rights deal, both Oregon and Washington ultimately fell on their back up plans to join the BIG 10.
Now, with Arizona, Arizona State and Utah expected to leave the west coast Power Five conference, the longevity of the PAC-12 Conference is in dire straits.
When it comes to cross country and track and field, the University of Arizona has a history of producing some of the NCAA's most accomplished all-time distance runners. Men such as Bernard Lagat, Lawi Lalang, Robert Cheseret and Stephen Sambu headline the collegiate record books in the longer distance events.
Admittedly, the Wildcats have had limited success as of late on the grass and in the distance events on the track. However, Carlos Villarreal is a recent Arizona graduate who found national-caliber success during his time in Tucson by producing marks of 1:46 (800), 3:56 (mile) and 3:37 (1500) as a collegiate.
The University of Utah, meanwhile, has found plenty of success in the longer distances, specifically in women's cross country. The Utes just placed 12th at the 2022 NCAA XC Championships and were headlined by All-American stars Emily Venters and Simone Plourde. That duo signed pro contracts with Nike earlier this summer and will be training alongside each other at Union Athletics Club.
Utah does not have a men's cross country or track and field team.
Arizona State, meanwhile, doesn't necessarily have the distance running history that either Utah or Arizona have. Their men's team, however, has been recently responsible for developing nationally competitive distance talents such as Fearghal Curtin, Will Paulson, Vincent Mauri and Dayton Carlson.
On the women's side of their roster, the Sun Devils are also responsible for producing Nike pro Shelby Houlihan.