Big 12 Sports Articles

Big 12 Conference Expansion Targets Ranked

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona

The Big 12 Conference has officially finalized its divorce from Oklahoma and Texas. This marriage is ending on June 30th, 2024. The two sides came to an agreement that the schools will pay the conference $100 million to leave one year early.

So now, the Big 12 Conference can move on and decide its next step. And given that all new commissioner Brett Yormark does is win, I expect his next move(s) to be aggressive on the expansion front, which he has signaled time and time again, and to best position this league for the long-term.


It’s obvious to anyone following that the Pac-12 Conference is in a bad place. The league still doesn’t have a new TV contract and according to several reports, frustration and anxiety is settling in amongst some members wondering what their future holds. Talk about the conference adding San Diego State and SMU is not going to save this league or make it all that more appealing to TV networks.

It seems highly likely the Big 12 smells blood and should try and capitalize on its stature and what appears to be the clear No. 3 sports conference in the country behind the SEC and Big Ten. So with Big 12 leadership not being shy about wanting to expand, here’s how I would rank potential expansion candidates based on recent events and conversations.

1. Oregon Ducks

We know what Phil Knight has built with the Ducks in Eugene. The entire athletic department has been lifted thanks to the Nike Owner’s investments over the years. Oregon has a brand that is not just a staple on the west coast, but has national appeal, meets Yormark’s needs of expanding into the Pacific Time Zone, and is filled with quality athletic programs, with fans who bring eye balls. Oregon checks off every box for the Big 12.


2. Washington Huskies

Yes, Washington is probably a packaged deal with the Ducks. And while the Huskies are less of a cultural fit than other schools on this list, they produce eye balls in a big media market in Seattle. If you look at the highest-rated games in the Pac-12 the last few years, three schools lead the way: Oregon, USC and Washington. For that reason alone, plus the package with Oregon, it makes the Huskies a valuable potential asset from a travel and ratings perspective.

3. Colorado Buffaloes

Some of you will hate it, given the fact that Colorado bailed from the league over 10 years ago and opted for the Pac-12. I’m willing to forgive and forget. Ask old-school Big 12 fans and they will all tell you they loved the road trip to Boulder, and that was well before the state legalized weed. It’s a great college town and will bring back some fun match ups. Colorado has money, some intrigue with Coach Prime in town, and for all the moving parts in college sports, a familiar face for the league isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to intriguing match ups.

4. Utah Utes

Speaking of ratings, Utah was the fourth most-watched Pac-12 team on the list, and the Utes have built a strong athletic brand, most notably in football. Also, this would bring one of the best rivalries in all of college football into the conference in the Holy War against BYU. The new-look Big 12 is lacking a lot of can’t-miss rivalries beyond some of the original Big 12 teams, so this would be one that would immediately become one of the best annual rivalries in college sports and likely land a high-quality TV slot each fall. By the way, the fastest growing state in the national from 2010 to 2020 based on the U.S. Census was Utah. It would be nice to lock that state down for the Big 12.


5. Arizona Wildcats

Arizona brings in a top-notch basketball program historically (imagine the Cats in Allen Fieldhouse for a conference meeting?), with a football program that has had bright spots, but remains an enigma, for the most part. It has yet to fulfill its potential, but the potential is there. It’s possible being a more visible football conference with a better brand will help Arizona. The massive undergraduate size and an alumni base is of value and adds another Mountain Zone team for the league.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils

You can flip Arizona and Arizona State however you so choose, but the Wildcats have had the better of the athletic departments in the revenue sports of late, so I give them the edge. The reality is, these two schools are probably a packaged deal and share many similarities in location, culture and size (although ASU’s enrollment number pushes 80,000!). These two are also in one of the fastest-growing states in the nation and a booming place for the league to consider staking a claim.

7. San Diego State Aztecs

The Aztecs certainly have made their feelings felt as to why they think they’re ready for a Power conference. They have new facilities to brag about, a top media market, a prime location in the largest state in the country with a ton of talent. However, I’m not convinced that SDSU moves the needle like those around the program think they do. I need to be sold further on the Aztecs, however I’m willing to consider them.


The Rest

What about Stanford and Cal? Washington State? Oregon State? The remaining Pac-12 schools could be on the outside looking in. Stanford and Cal are simply not cultural fits and the two sides simply may not have interest in each other. Washington State and Oregon State better hope that the politics within their respective states help they get an invite to wherever the other major state university ends up.

Gonzaga: Hard pass. I’ve laid out those reasons in this piece as the why the basketball-only school makes little sense for the Big 12 Conference.

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