Oregon reportedly initiated low-level preliminary discussions with the Big Ten about whether the Ducks are "compatible" with the conference.
Brett McMurphy of the Action Network reported Monday the conversations didn't include Oregon school president Michael Schill, athletic director Rob Mullens or Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren.
The Ducks are in the Pac-12, which they've called home since 1915 when it was founded as the Pacific Coast Conference.
UCLA and USC, two of the conference's premier members, announced in June they'd be moving to the Big Ten in 2024, leaving the Pac-12 in a state of flux amid the widespread realignment within college sports.
The Big Ten could be one of the biggest winners of the changing landscape after landing a seven-year, $7 billion contract for media rights from CBS, Fox and NBC.
McMurphy noted that the deal, which begins in July 2023, includes an escalator clause that could see its total value reach $10 billion if the conference's membership grows beyond 16—the 14 current programs plus UCLA and USC.
So there's an obvious incentive for the Big Ten to seek out more schools, and Warren said the ultimate endgame is likely a 20-team league.
The conference's group of targets includes Oregon, along with three of its Pac-12 rivals (Cal, Stanford and Washington) and Notre Dame, though the Fighting Irish could choose to continue their longstanding tradition of being an independent in football, per McMurphy.
It makes sense to add at least a few more Pac-12 programs to have some semblance of regional rivalries for the West Coast schools in the traditionally Midwest conference.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 remains in a state of uncertainty after discussions about a possible partnership with the Big 12 failed to yield an agreement last month, per ESPN's Pete Thamel.
The conference is in the middle of its own media-rights negotiations, but it would obviously lose further leverage if more programs make the jump to the Big Ten. Talks with the ACC about a similar arrangement also "projects to underwhelm," according to Thamel.
All told, the shape of college sports is going to look a lot different in five years, and there will likely be a few conferences and programs that end up getting the short end of the stick.
That's why teams like Oregon continue to explore their options before it's too late.