As recently as March, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan was absolutely adamant that his Utes would not be leaving the Pac-12. A lot has happened, not only over the last five months, but the past 24 hours.
On Friday evening, Utah, along with Arizona and Arizona State, officially announced that it will depart the Pac-12 for the Big 12 in 2024. The three schools will join along with Colorado, which made the same announcement earlier this summer. The latest move on the conference realignment chessboard came just hours after Oregon and Washington elected to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.
Obviously circumstances changed for Utah and the rest of the Pac-12 deserters significantly, both after UCLA and USC announced their move to the Big Ten last year, and against with the Ducks and Huskies’ departure Friday. Even so, Harlan may want back some very pointed posts on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, after they resurfaced on Friday.
On Dec. 6, in response to a post about the Pac-12’s lagging television ratings during conference championship weekend, Harlan wrote, “We are not leaving…”
We are not leaving… https://t.co/qU0kc2Into
— Mark Harlan (@MarkHarlan_AD) December 6, 2022
CBS Sports reporter Dennis Dodd actively reported on a potential move by the Big 12 to gut the Pac-12 ahead of Friday’s monumental moves. In March, he wrote that the league was readying to “pounce on Four Corners schools” with the Pac-12’s situation up in the air.
At the time, Harlan quoted Dodd, writing, “Give me a break,” as saved by the account @OldTakesExposed.
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) August 4, 2023
Of course, circumstances around Utah’s Pac-12 membership have evolved substantially in the last few months. Even without UCLA and USC, there was some confidence that the Pac-12 could find a way to secure a media rights deal that was at least competitive with what the Big 12 and ACC have, and the league reportedly had its own expansion targets like San Diego State. Neither of those deals materialized.
As late as Friday morning, the remaining Pac-12 programs were set to meet to secure their membership, before Oregon and Washington reversed course and made their decision to depart for the Big Ten.
That left Harlan’s school among those scrambling for an out, and he’d certainly rather have some social media posts age poorly than be stuck in the situation that conference-mates like Cal and Oregon State now find themselves.