University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins told the public Monday the university’s decision to leave the Pac-12 Conference wasn’t “done deal” from the start, as many have speculated these last several weeks.

Rather, Robbins said those reports Thursday nightabout the U of A having an agreement to join the Big 12were “not true” at the time.

“I think we were all expecting Friday morning, we were showing up together to sign in blood our Grant of Rights over the the Pac-12 conference,” Robbins said in a press conference alongside Athletic Director Dave Heeke.

Robbins explained he got an unexpected call Friday morning, ahead of the Pac-12 teleconference, that Oregon and Washington were not signing the Pac-12 deal, telling him “we’ll be taking our talents to the Big Ten.”

Oregon and Washington had problems with the subscription-based Apple TV streaming deal.

Robbins says he was reluctant as well, wondering how the Pac-12 could sell 3 to 5 million subscriptions each year.

“It’s going to be like selling candy bars for Little League or Girl Scout cookies,” he told the media.

By Friday morning, worries about selling Pac-12 Apple subscriptions were gone: Arizona, Arizona State and Utah were heading to the Big 12.

I asked Dr. Robbins about working with ASU President Michael Crow to keep the two Arizona schools together.

“The two of us thought it was in the best interest of the state, for both of our universities, for the rivalry for us to stay together,” Robbins told me. “We didn’t want to get into a situation where we just kept the Territorial Cup former, because we got it.”

Robbins and Heeke say they’re now focused on the final athletic season in the Pac-12.

But Robbins did wonder aloud to Heeke about the new potential rivalries in the Big 12, especially Arizona and Kansas in basketball:

“Kansas will be coming to McKale and we’ll be going to Phog Allen [Fieldhouse]. That one in the immediate term, that’s going to be intense rivalry.”

While Arizona will be competing athletically in the Big 12 starting in the fall of 2024, they’re also looking at growing their academic partnerships, like the one they already have with the Big 12’s Oklahoma State.

For more than a year the U of A and OSU have been collaborating on a project to address the opioid crisis.

“A more powerful antidote to fentanyl, and you know how many people are dying from fentanyl. So, there are academic and other reasons why this partnership is really good for us,” said Robbins.”