Is Colorado Leaving the Pac-12 Actually a Big Deal?

Despite Colorado leaving the Pac-12, is it truly as big a loss as USC or even UCLA to the conference and the remaining teams?

When news broke last week that Colorado will be leaving the Pac-12 to make their triumphant return to the Big 12, some have seen the Buffaloes leaving the Pac-12 as something that could harm the future of the conference. But others are not so worried.

Colorado Leaving the Pac-12: A Big Deal?

Last week, Colorado voted and decided to leave the Pac-12 in favor of returning to the Big 12 for the first time in a decade. The move is set to be official on July 1, 2024, when they will become the 13th member of the Big 12 after Oklahoma and Texas leave on the same date for the SEC.

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They will also become the third team in the Pac-12 to leave, as both UCLA and USC are joining the Big Ten on the same date as well.

Oregon head coach Dan Lanning spoke with the media, and when asked about Colorado leaving the conference, he didn’t find it to be a big deal.

“Not a big reaction,” Lanning said. “I’m trying to remember what they won to affect this conference and I don’t remember. Do you remember them winning anything? I don’t remember them winning anything.”

Colorado joined the Pac-12 back in 2011 after leaving the Big 12 the same year. Since the Buffaloes became members of the conference, they have recorded just two winning seasons with two bowl appearances at the Alamo Bowl in 2016 and 2020.

To date, Colorado has a 48-94 record, with only 24 wins against conference opponents in 12 seasons and has never won a conference title.

Why Colorado Leaving Won’t Hurt the Pac-12

The reality is that coach Lanning while being a bit abrasive and direct with his comments, is not completely wrong. This is a program that has gone through seven head coaches in 12 years, barely winning over 50% of their games. Colorado never won a conference championship and lost both bowl games they have played in since 2011.

New Colorado head coach Deion Sanders is a flashy hire for the program and has done a great job rebuilding the coaching staff, the roster, and the culture. Coach Sanders proved that quickly going 27-5 in three seasons with Jackson State winning two SWAC conference titles the last two seasons.

The competition in the SWAC and the competition in the Pac-12 are two completely different things.

As of June, the Buffaloes only have 10 returning scholarship players to the team. Three of those players are projected to be starters this season, with offensive linemen Van Wells and Tyler Brown, as well as safety Trevor Woods.

That kind of turnover almost makes it impossible for a team to be legit contenders for a national title and long shots for even their conference championship. This season will be a transitional one for Colorado, as win projections have them anywhere from four to seven wins, at best.

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The biggest losses for the Pac-12 are UCLA and USC, who have been top-billed teams for the conference for decades. Both teams have appeared in seven conference title games since 2011, with USC winning once.

Colorado has gone to just one conference title game in that same span.

Winning has not been something Colorado has been able to do, but that’s exactly what coach Sanders was brought in to change. Maybe the school will have more success in the Big 12 with Texas and Oklahoma leaving, but it still won’t change the fact that coach Sanders needs to transform this program quickly.

The Pac-12 experiment failed for Colorado, but going back to familiar territory could help.

As for the Pac-12, they are working to recover from the USC and UCLA losses, hoping to lean on Oregon and Washington to stick around. The conference may miss the publicity coach Sanders could bring to them, but in terms of performance on the field, they can find a suitable replacement for the time being.