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Big 12: Let's Make a Deal- Who They Would Take

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

As I first wrote in "College Football Is About to Change Forever" the first step in the dominoes that will fall that lead to the new college football framework is two of the Pac 12 schools leaving for the Big 12.

There have been other reports that the University of Connecticut and San Diego State University are also possibilities. Everyone seems to have a theory on what happens first and who the Big 12 REALLY wants the most.

So, let's play a game of "Let's Make a Deal" and pretend we are deciding which of these schools to the Big 12. Here is a map to help us keep us focused on the relative location of options.

What are the Big 12 opportunities for expansion?
New Big 12 Map

I have put these in the order I THINK a decision will be required. The number score is my guess in how likely they are to join the Big 12 in 2024/2025.

Let me say this upfront. I DO NOT think the Big 12 can or will get Washington, Oregon, Stanford, nor Cal. I think those four WILL go to the Big Ten if/when the Pac 12 crumbles.

Colorado- Curtain Number One- Quickie Deal

Positives- They seem most ready to flip and if they go others might follow. They seem to be a cultural fit with the rest of the conference. The Buffs played in the Big 8/ Big 12 from 1948 to 2010. Would expand the footprint of the conference westward to Colorado. Visibility and fan interest surrounding Deion Sanders should remain as long as he is there.

Negatives- They have been simply terrible for most of the last decade in football. Fan engagement was at an all-time low before Sanders arrived. Not sure how much they move the needle long term. Not a strong basketball program either.

Let's Make a Deal?- Yes!- 9/10- Colorado would be welcomed with open arms. Colorado may be the spark for Big 12 access to many other possibilities.

Arizona- Curtain Number Two- Quickie Deal

Positives- Of the programs that have showed the most interest in the Big 12, I think Arizona has the most potential and with the exception of football is the best competitive fit with the Big 12 universities. Financially moving the conference into Arizona could be very additive. The basketball (both men's and women's) at Arizona would be an excellent addition. Baseball, softball, golf, and other sports are very competitive. Football has been dormant for several years but with a larger recruiting footprint that sport may thrive in the Big 12.

Negatives- Will they come? Will they and Arizona St. come together or will there be internal Board of Regents challenges making an addition of Arizona impossible.

Let's Make a Deal?- ABSOLUTELY- 10/10- Based on comments from school officials they seem fed up with the Pac 12 media negotiations. I think they will come with Colorado. Arizona leaving may set the fuse for the Pac 12 implosion.

Utah- Curtain Number Three

Positives- Utah would be a great get from a competitiveness standpoint in football for the Big 12. Several other sports are very competitive too. Would be a natural, albeit seemingly a reluctant, rival with BYU. Adding Utah (with BYU) would solidify the state as Big 12 country.

Negatives- Utah does not seem very interested in coming to the Big 12. Understand that joining the Pac 12 was huge for Utah in 2011. They have done well in the Pac 12. Utah is going to have to make a decision - do they want to be leader of whatever is left with the Pac 12 after other schools leave or are they willing to swallow their pride and join in with Colorado and Arizona going to the Pac 12.

Let's Make a Deal?- Toss-Up- 4/10- I think Utah EVENTUALLY joins the Big 12 but not until 2027-2029. I will score it lower for the 2024-2026 window.

Arizona St.- Curtain Number Four

Positives- Arizona St. has been decent in football in the 2010s. Several other athletics programs are competitive or better. The Big 12 would own the ASU-AU rivalry. Adding ASU to Arizona would help the regional footprint.

Negatives- Arizona St. football is besieged by scandal. They have financial issues. The road back to competitiveness may take time. The Sun Devils are in a similar place as Utah. They don't want things to change in the Pac 12. What will they do if it is clear that change is coming?

Let's Make a Deal?- Toss up- 5/10- I THINK ASU will follow Arizona. It may not happen until 2026-2027 or later. If not now, I think they come with Utah eventually.

San Diego State University- Curtain Number Five- Cue Zonk Music

Positives- California. The Big 12 can claim a spot in California and the pacific time zone for a late-night TV slot. Has been pretty good in the Mountain West. VERY good basketball (finished SECOND in the tournament) program. This would be an excellent fit with Yormark's vision of Big 12 Basketball. Other sports are OK.

Negatives- They have been in the Mountain West. They are a California add to the conference in name only. I would guess they are the fifth or sixth biggest college athletics brand in California. Does that even matter? They would NOT likely bring a pro rata share to the Big 12 for adding them. They would much prefer to join into the Pac 12 even if it is just the remnants of the Pac 12.

Let's Make a Deal?- Likely No- 3/10- I think the allure of being in California is far outweighed by the dilutive effect of adding SDSU.

Connecticut- Curtain Number six- Cue Zonk Music

Positives- Another member in the East with West Virginia. Proximity to New York. HUGE Basketball Brand. One would be adding them mainly for their basketball teams. Semi-rival with UCF. Some other sports are also competitive including baseball and softball.

Negatives- Travel would be a nightmare for UConn and they left the AAC because of travel among other reasons. Plays as an independent and last year was arguably their best year since 2010. Football has been under a threat of being disbanded many times. It's not clear they even WANT to join the Big 12.

Let's Make a Deal?- Likely No- 3/10- I don't think UConn is ready to joing the Big 12 yet. I think they might be encouraged to develop to be able to do that.

Gonzaga- Smaller box number one

Positives- Incredible Basketball Brand! No football. Probably a Men's and Women's basketball add only. A pacific time zone basketball host.

Negatives- what do the financials look like to add a program in basketball only? Per some reports, it appears that Big 12 Presidents and Athletic Directors were not that impressed. Travel to Spokane would be a nightmare.

Let's Make a Deal?- IF The Price is Right (did you see what I did there?)- 4/10- I say it takes a while to get the price right.

I do NOT think Washington State nor Oregon State are a great fit either, but I reserve the right to change my mind on that. I think those two merge with the best of the Mountain West in a rebranded Pac 12 after the others leave. If they can hold on to Utah and Arizona St., it MIGHT work for a while.

If we put this all together, it would say

Deal- Colorado and Arizona

Later Deal- Arizona State and Utah and Gonzaga

Even Later Deal- Washington St. and Oregon St. and UConn

No Deal- San Diego St.

This is just my opinion from processing multiple reports and interviews. Please tell me what you think.

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