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Big 12 votes unanimously to accept Colorado as new member, sources say

INDIANAPOLIS — The Big 12’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously on a conference call to accept Colorado as a new member on Wednesday night, sources told ESPN.

The vote marks one of the final remaining steps to be completed for Colorado to leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12, a move that’s hurtling toward being finalized on Thursday.

Colorado still has not formally applied for Big 12 membership, another of the final formal steps remaining for it to join the league. But Wednesday night’s Big 12 vote marks a necessary step toward it joining the conference, a move that’s increasingly becoming an inevitability.

A Colorado departure from the Pac-12 would come after the 2023-24 season and coincide with the end of the Pac-12 television deal. That would mean that Colorado would not have to pay any exit fee to the league.

Colorado is expected to formally apply for membership on Thursday, the same day that the school’s Board of Regents is holding a “special board meeting” that sources say includes a vote on the move to the Big 12. Sources expect the final steps to be taken on Thursday and a deal to be formalized.

The Big 12 vote comes in the wake of Colorado’s board holding an executive board session on Wednesday to discuss the potential move, according to sources. When that was completed, the corresponding move for a public meeting to hold a potential vote on the league change came moments after.

The school announced a “special board meeting” and the agenda is listed as “Action Item: Athletics Operations.” A board spokesman told ESPN that an action item indicates a vote will take place.

In the Colorado system, a public meeting is required for a vote on a matter such as switching conferences. A board spokesman confirmed that Thursday’s “special board meeting” is public.

Colorado’s future with the Pac-12 has been in flux for months amid the conference’s protracted television contract negotiations. Colorado also has had the most extensive meetings with the Big 12, as sources told ESPN that the two parties met in May in person to discuss a potential move.

The back-to-back board meetings by Colorado also align with another indicator for a potential move. And they align with Colorado’s general unhappiness with the Pac-12, which stretches back to the tenure of former commissioner Larry Scott.

When ESPN asked Colorado athletic director Rick George this week about a potential conference decision, he declined comment. He did express frustration at the Pac-12’s inability to put together a television deal, saying he had no meeting scheduled with the league this week.

“We are where we are,” George told ESPN. “We’ve just got to figure it out.”

The Colorado board spokesman told ESPN: “There will be no further discussion until the public meeting.”

That meeting might end up largely as a formality. The key step remaining for Colorado will be to formally apply to the Big 12, which is typically done with a short email. Public applications to a league are often considered formalities after all votes have been secured.

This potential move comes amid the backdrop of the Pac-12’s slow pace toward landing a television deal. Conference members have collectively waited for a television number from commissioner George Kliavkoff.

A source told ESPN’s Heather Dinich that the Pac-12 presidents have still not been presented with a media deal, a reoccurring theme over the past few months. Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano told the Denver Post last week that he was expecting numbers in a meeting prior to the Pac-12’s media day last week. Those never materialized.

The potential move marks a return for Colorado to the Big 12, which it was a member of from 1996 to 2010. Colorado left for the Pac-12 in 2011 and has had no bowl wins and just two winning football seasons since then.

George hustled out of Pac-12 media day without commenting last week, fueling suspicions of Colorado’s possible move. When asked by ESPN on Tuesday why he wouldn’t express solidarity with the Pac-12 like his peers, George said: “It’s just who I am. When I have something to say, I’ll say it.”

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