Big XII Going Shopping?

by | Apr 11, 2023 | 0 comments

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Will the Big XII Go Shopping…and if So, Where?

A List of Potentially Available Teams and Their Fit in the Conference

By John Weis

Shortly after being named Big XII Commissioner, Brett Yormark made no secret of his plans to expand the conference. “We are open for business,” Yormark said. “Optionality is good. I think it is fair to say that I have received a lot of phone calls. We will leave no stone unturned to drive value for the conference.”

Since then, it’s been blatantly obvious he’s hard at work trying to do just that; the first domino could fall at any time. I love everything Yormark has done for the conference since his hire, but I hope he proceeds with caution when it comes to adding teams. In my mind, you shouldn’t expand just for the sake of adding numbers. You should only do it if you’re bringing in a team(s) that make your conference better, adding value to it in some way. 

Big XII fans everywhere – me included – are letting their imaginations run wild, thinking about what an expanded conference might look like. But as exciting as all the talk of realignment can be, the Big XII doesn’t have to be in a rush to add teams. They would be just fine running with the 14 (12 after this season) they currently have in place.

But with this idea in mind – quality over quantity – here is a list of teams that may become (or are already) available, along with my thoughts on why the Big XII should or shouldn’t add them. I have them in order of personal preference, not how I think it will happen. 

Notes: (a) Some of these are Group of Five teams. Personally, I have little interest in any of them outside of San Diego State and Memphis – and more important, the networks seem to agree with me. However, I include them in this article because I’ve seen them mentioned elsewhere, and because I want to be thorough. (b) I didn’t include ACC teams in this list because, at least for now, this isn’t a possibility.


Media Market: Eugene 119 (nearby Portland is #22)

Current Conference: PAC-12

Football Last 5 Seasons:  45-16  

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 111-57


            ∙ Adding a school of this stature boosts Big XII profile.

            ∙ They’ve played for football national championships in recent history.

            ∙ Their close Nike affiliation keeps them in the national spotlight.


            ∙ If they join, would they be content to stay in the Big XII long-term or look to escape to the Big 10?

             Their location will mean lots of travel issues – not just for football, but all sports. 

            ∙ Industry experts say the Big XII and Oregon/Washington might not be a good fit.

The verdict: They could end up in the Big 10, likely at a less than 100% revenue share, after a new conference commissioner is named – which, if reports are to be believed, could happen sooner rather than later. But if the Big 10 is serious about not adding schools at this time, it becomes a possibility they make the move to the Big XII or even the ACC. They also could be secretly hoping the PAC-12 stays mostly together, allowing them an easier road into the playoffs. But despite the geographical issues, I would be excited to welcome the Ducks into the Big XII with open arms, as they would make the overall brand stronger. After all, what team’s fan base wouldn’t be psyched at the thought of playing a game against the Ducks?


Media Market: Seattle/Tacoma #13

Current Conference: PAC-12

Football Last 5 Seasons:    36-20

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 80-78


∙ A package deal of Washington/Oregon would help offset the losses of Oklahoma and Texas, positively reinforcing the conference’s image.

∙ Outstanding football program on the upswing (11-2 last season).

∙ Would be a welcome visiting fan destination.


            ∙ Outside of 2018-2019, their hoops program has been very ordinary in recent years.

             Location would make for long road trips (though the same could be said for UCF).

            ∙ Much like Oregon, they may not consider a move to the Big XII to be a permanent one.

The verdict: Much of what I said above about Oregon is true here, as they’d also love to become members of the Big 10 – even at a reduced revenue share. But what if that isn’t possible and they still want/need to leave the PAC-12? Washington is another power brand, one that would instantly enhance the Big XII’s reputation. Location is once again a drawback as the travel expense would be significant for them, but if they decide they want to become a member, the Big XII should answer with a resounding, “Yes!”


Media Market: Salt Lake City #29

Current Conference: PAC-12

Football Last 5 Seasons:    43-18

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 73-77


∙ Two-time defending PAC-12 champions in football. 

∙ Arch-rival to new Big XII school BYU; “Holy War” annual game is a bitter rivalry. 

∙ Finished 4th in the PAC-12 in TV viewership last season. 


∙ They believe they are an elite academic institution, but according to US News & World Report, they’re actually #105. 

∙ Their basketball program, once very good, has been lacking of late. 

∙ The Big XII already has a footprint in Utah with BYU. Does it really need another one?

The verdict: This is a Big XII-worthy program to be sure, but they have it in their heads that they are far superior academically to the Big XII institutions. Due to this elitism, I’d have to hold my nose while I accepted them into the conference. But they should not burn bridges, as someday – even if it isn’t now – they might need the Big XII to throw them a lifeline. Current rumors suggest they’re likely staying put as long as there is a PAC-12 left after realignment is done.


Media Market: Denver/Boulder #16

Current Conference: PAC-12

Football Last 5 Seasons:     19-35           

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 106-62


            ∙ It doesn’t matter that they haven’t won recently in football with the arrival of Deion Sanders.

            ∙ Colorado is one of the most beautiful places on earth; again, another visitor’s destination city.

            ∙ Underrated hoops program has averaged 21 wins per year over the last five.


            ∙ Finished 11th out of 12 PAC-12 teams in football TV viewership last season (though the new coach will help improve things going forward).

            ∙ They left the Big XII once before. Are there any hard feelings that linger?

            ∙ They’re an exciting brand now, but what happens if Sanders leaves for a bigger job?

The verdict: Strong rumblings in recent days are projecting Colorado to the Big XII in the very near future, and there are more rumors of this nature for Colorado than any other team. Though their football schedule is absolutely brutal this year (non-conference games against TCU, Nebraska, and Colorado State), the arrow is pointing in the right direction for the Buffs. Many eyes will be on them this season, and they’ll be there for as long as Sanders is the football coach. But can this positive momentum be sustained in the future? If past history is any indication, you can’t say “yes” with a whole lot of confidence. But they would fit in nicely with Yormark’s West Coast strategy and Colorado has always been a fantastic vacation destination.


Media Market: Tucson/Sierra Vista #65

Current Conference: PAC-12

Football Last 5 Seasons:      15-38           

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 116-46


 Strong basketball tradition would fit well with Big XII. 

∙ They provide the West Coast footprint Brett Yormark seeks. 

∙ Great place to attend an away game for visiting fans. As Jerome Tang recently said, “Who doesn’t want to go to Arizona?”


            ∙ Finished 10th out of 12 PAC-12 teams in football viewership last season.

            ∙ Football has been abysmal in recent years, though it was somewhat better last season.

            ∙ Other than basketball, the athletic program is largely unknown outside of the West Coast.

The verdict: There are whispers the Wildcats are another team defecting from the PAC-12 along with Colorado…and those whispers are gaining volume. I’m personally lukewarm about adding Arizona, though it’s my guess they ultimately wind up in the Big XII. Yes, they’re a Power Five school. Yes, they would be an ideal candidate for West Coast expansion. These are certainly good attributes. But in today’s college athletics landscape, brand recognition is right there on par with media markets in terms of importance, and I’m not sure the power of the Arizona brand makes the conference more valuable. Despite being a basketball powerhouse, the addition of Arizona wouldn’t strike fear into competing conferences. One more question to ponder: Would AZ and AZ State really separate from each other, and play in different conferences?

Arizona State

Media Market: Phoenix #11

Current Conference: PAC-12

Football Last 5 Seasons:    28-27

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 91-66


∙ Capturing the Phoenix TV market (larger than Tucson) would be a win for the Big XII. 

∙ The same West Coast footprint and away-game destination city also applies here, just as it did with Arizona. 

 One of the few schools whose student body rivals UCF’s in terms of sheer size.


            ∙ Finished dead last among all PAC-12 teams in football viewership last season.

             Potential NCAA sanctions still loom from the previous football coaching regime.

            ∙ Most people outside the West Coast know little about ASU sports.

The verdict: On one hand, you have the powerful Arizona basketball program. On the other hand, you have the more well-rounded Arizona State program and the larger Phoenix media market. If you could choose only one, which would you choose? Both Arizona and Arizona State bring something to the table, but neither will really excite anyone all that much outside of their own fanbases. 

San Diego State

Media Market: San Diego #30

Current Conference: Mountain West

Football Last 5 Seasons:     40-21           

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 129-36


            ∙ Would give Big XII a large-market footprint in California.

∙ New, state-of-the-art football venue, Snapdragon Stadium.

            ∙ Outstanding hoops program; runner-up in this year’s NCAA Tournament. 


            ∙ The G5 stigma is a problem for them.

            ∙ They seem to favor the PAC-12, where they would be a better geographic fit.

            ∙ Despite being in a big city and having a winning team, they averaged just 29,892 fans per home game last season. 

Verdict: If the Big XII can only get one PAC-12 school, San Diego State would be a fine second team to pair with them. They are one of a very small handful of G5 teams still left who are worthy of a call-up to the bigtime. In the end, though, I believe the Aztecs will wind up in what could be a very watered-down PAC-12, unless the media deal George Kliavkoff negotiates is so putrid, they need to look elsewhere.


Media Market: Memphis #52

Current Conference: AAC

Football Last 5 Seasons:     41-23           

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 111-52


            ∙ $200 million in renovations to Liberty Bowl have begun.

            ∙ FedEx Chairman Fred Smith is a big proponent of theirs.

            ∙ Location helps UCF, Cincinnati, and West Virginia with travel.


            ∙ Networks not keen on promoting more G5 teams.

            ∙ Other than basketball program, Memphis sports are not well-recognized outside of the South. 

            ∙ Left out of last round of expansion due to media market and size of the school.

The verdict: If I had my way, Memphis would be higher on this list, but it isn’t realistic. They’ve been competitive in football for several seasons, and as long as Penny Hardaway is handling the reins, the hoops program is in good shape. Just as important, from a geographical standpoint, adding Memphis would give UCF another opponent they could travel to via a fairly easy airplane ride. But they are not high up on the Big XII’s list based on everything I’ve heard or read. 

Washington State

Media Market: Spokane #67

Current Conference: PAC-12

Football Last 5 Seasons:    32-24

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 80-82


             Active fanbase – finished sixth in PAC-12 TV viewership, pretty good for a small market.

             Despite built-in disadvantages (see Cons section), they remain very competitive.

            ∙ Would add a new footprint for Big XII in Washington.


            ∙ Smaller TV market.

            ∙ Has been, and will continue to be, Washington’s “little brother.” 

            ∙ They don’t carry enough clout to decide where they want to go. Like Oregon State, they have to wait to see what shakes out with the conference’s other teams. 

The verdict: Along with Oregon State, they’re the two PAC-12 schools who are hoping their conference stays together. It doesn’t appear that the Big XII has a whole lot of interest in them, so unless Yormark gets really desperate for a West Coast school, the Cougars are not going anywhere. If they wind up in another conference, it means very bad news for them.

Oregon State

Media Market: Shares Eugene (#119) and Portland (#22) with Oregon

Current Conference: PAC-12

Football Last 5 Seasons:    26-31

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 70-88

Pros:    ∙ Would establish a new footprint for Big XII in the state of Oregon.

            ∙ 10-3 football record last year is their most wins since 2006, when they went 10-4.

            ∙ Baseball team won the 2018 College World Series.


            ∙ Finished only ninth in PAC-12 TV viewership last year despite a winning record.

            ∙ Lags quite far behind Oregon in stature.

            ∙ Like Washington State, they must play the waiting game until the rest of the conference’s teams decide what to do. 

The verdict: Like Washington State, the Beavers want the PAC-12 to stay together. Why? They realize they are very low on the Big XII’s wish list, and no other Power Five conference is interested in them. Much like Washington State, if they’re in a different conference in the near future, it could be the Mountain West.

Boise State

Media Market: Boise #98

Current Conference: Mountain West

Football Last 5 Seasons:     44-16           

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 103-59


             Could play in the late-night, West Coast time slot Brett Yormark wants.

            ∙ Recently unveiled plans for an $81 million football stadium renovation (and $13.9 basketball arena remodel) as part of an overall $300 million “Athletics Master Village” construction.

            ∙ Averaged 35,121 fans per game last season.


             Once again, the Group of Five stigma is alive and well here.

∙ The media market is not large enough to attract sufficient attention.

            ∙ While their blue football turf makes them memorable, it also seems gimmicky and to me and makes their games difficult to watch.

The verdict: It makes me feel very guilty saying this, but I’ll have to pass on the Broncos for now. Boise and UCF were among the first G5 teams to make a splash on a national stage and, as such, the two teams’ fans developed a sort of kinship/support group, knowing what it felt like to be the Rodney Dangerfields of college football. When UCF got the call to the Big XII, Boise’s fans congratulated them, and I respect that. I hope they make it to a power conference someday … and I believe they’d be perfect for the PAC-12 geographically. 

Fresno State

Media Market: Fresno/Visalia #53

Current Conference: Mountain West

Football Last 5 Seasons:    39-20

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 70-73


            ∙ Would give Big XII another West Coast team and a California footprint.

            ∙ Active fan base – they led the Mountain West in attendance with 39,067 fans per game last year.

            ∙ They seem to have the support of local government officials. 


            ∙ Not currently a Power Five school

            ∙ SDSU is a more attractive California option.

            ∙ Football stadium needs renovation before being considered P5 quality.

The verdict: Thanks, but no thanks. Fresno has a fine Group of Five football program and is located in California, but that’s where much of their appeal ends. Their media market isn’t very large and there are far better options for the Big XII. Still, it wouldn’t shock me to see the PAC-12 invite them in; they need California presences after losing USC and UCLA. 


Media Market: Hartford/New Haven #34

Current Conference: Big East (Basketball Only)

Football Last 5 Seasons:      10-39 (Did not play in COVID 2020 Season)   

Basketball Last 5 Seasons: 104-55


            ∙ Five basketball national championships in the last 25 years, including this year’s title.

            ∙ Fairly strong media market.

∙ Close proximity to New York City, an area in which Yormark desires a presence.


            ∙ Their football program has been a joke for many years, though they did make a bowl game this year under new coach Jim Mora, Jr.

            ∙ The school’s athletic department is in major financial trouble.

            ∙ Only 22,095 average fan attendance for home football games despite going to the bowl game.

The verdict: This one’s easy for me. A hard “no” when it comes to UConn. While they did win the basketball championship this year and would unquestionably add swag to the conference in that respect, the rest of their athletic department would make the Big XII the source of ridicule. Since leaving the Big East in 2013, their football team has gone 27-80. UConn to the Big XII as a basketball-only school? I’d be fine with that.

John Weis is a freelance Writing/PR professional. His company, Weis Words ( serves national clients such as advertising agencies, public relations firms, and sports organizations, as well as small businesses and private individuals. A native Central Floridian and basketball enthusiast, he spent six seasons as Broadcast Coordinator for the Orlando Magic Radio Network early in his career. He graduated from UCF in 1994 with a degree in Communications and can’t wait for the Knights to move to the Big XII.

About John Weis


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