In four years of the College Football Playoff, the Pac-12 has been left out twice. The Pac-12 Networks aren't nearly as fully-flushed out as the Big Ten and SEC equivalents. The schools are starting to fall behind in terms of revenue.
When the Power Five era began, after the Big East football league got poached and divided up, many thought the ACC would be the most vulnerable league. Further expansion drove that narrative. The Big Ten took Maryland from the league, adding the populous DMV region to its marketshare.
Then it was the Big 12 that seemed to have the most issues. The league has the smallest base of schools, and was famously left out of the 2014 College Football Playoff, when Baylor and TCU finished fifth and sixth and were jumped late by Ohio State.
The Longhorn Network and Texas's (arguably outsized) influence over the league had some wondering whether other schools could look to leave. There have been rumors about Oklahoma looking elsewhere, which would really shift the balance.
However, less than five years into this current Power Five set-up, it is the Pac-12 that looks the weakest. The West Coast league definitely receives less attention, there seems to be a fan enthusiasm gap, and coaches and administrators are beginning to grow weary of the issues that the league faces.
CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd spoke to a few on-the-record Pac-12 higher-ups who are frustrated with the league.
"I'm fairly critical of the Pac-12 organization," Cal chancellor Carol Christ said late last year.
"The gap between us and the other [leagues] continues to grow," he said. "We'll be competitively disadvantaged even moreso. … That's real money in terms of being able to compete, support facilities, support coaches and support programs."
The sky is not falling out West but cracks are beginning to appear in a once-solid foundation. First, there are those vocal critics. Christ, Anderson and new Washington State president Kirk Schulz have weighed in.
"This is a concern of the Pac-12 presidents, and I can tell you it's a large discussion point with meetings with the commissioner at every single meeting," Schulz said. "… The Pac-12 schools have got to be competitive with the ACC, the SEC and the Big Ten and Big 12, and we're falling behind."
The easiest thing to point to might be the Pac-12 Networks, which many in the heart of the league's footprint can't even see. Distribution of the network is a major issue, and it is way behind the Big Ten and SEC's outputs. The ACC is also launching a linear network with ESPN, much like the SEC has.
As Dodd notes, and I outline above, part of this is cyclical. However, the Pac-12 hasn't exactly helped itself with scheduling, or success on the courts and fields. The thing working most in its favor may also be location, even if "East Coast bias" is an issue. There isn't an obvious landing spot for most Pac-12 programs.