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Arizona baseball: What moving from Pac-12 to Big 12 will mean for Wildcats

arizona-wildcats-baseball-big12-pac12-preview-travel-competition-recruiting-2025 Arizona Athletics

With 42 NCAA Tournament appearances, 18 trips to the College World Series and four national titles, Arizona has one of the most successful college baseball programs in the sport’s history. Roughly half of those NCAA and CWS appearances came as a member of the Pac-12 Conference, along with the last three championships.

Will that continue with a move to the Big 12 starting in 2025? It depends on how well the Wildcats adapt to a league that has had a much better national reputation than the Pac-12 recently, as well as how they’ll handle changes to travel, scheduling and recruiting.

The competition

While the SEC is hands down the best college baseball conference in the country, producing the last three CWS champs (the most recent led by Arizona’s former head coach) and regularly sending multiple teams to Omaha, the Big 12 isn’t that far behind. The league has thrice had three participants in the CWS at the same time, most recently in 2016, and this past year had TCU make it to the final four after opening the NCAA tourney with a win over the UA.

But with Oklahoma and Texas leaving for the SEC, eight of the league’s nine CWS titles are also going out the door. Oklahoma State, in 1959, is the only other current Big 12 school to win it all, though Houston reached the finals in 1967 but lost to ASU.

Speaking of the Sun Devils, their five CWS titles are third-most in college baseball history, so the Arizona contingent of the 2025 Big 12 Conference brings with it quite a bit of street credit.

Oklahoma State’s 20 trips to the CWS are fifth-most, though it hasn’t been there since 2016, while TCU has been there seven times (all since 2009) and Texas Tech has made four trips since 2014.

The Big 12 got six of nine schools into the NCAA tourney last season, and regularly puts at least that many into the 64-team field. The Pac-12, with 11 baseball-playing members the past decade, rarely ever had more than five qualifiers and often fewer than that.

Not including fellow Pac-12 teams ASU and Utah, Arizona has a 62-33 against the remainder of the Big 12, though there are several schools the Wildcats have never faced on the baseball diamond.

The travel

Only 14 members of the 2025 conference play baseball, as Colorado and Iowa State don’t sponsor the sport. That leaves 13 potential road trips, but with a likely 30-game conference schedule that means only five 3-game series away home each spring in league play.

So while the UA may find itself going 1,800-plus miles to Cincinnati, Morgantown or Orlando, it’s very unlikely it would have to do more than one of those per season and in most seasons none. Annual trips to Kansas, Texas and Utah will be much more common, as those three straights house eight of the Wildcats’ 13 league foes.

The UA has never played at Cincinnati, Kansas, Kansas State, UCF or West Virginia, so longtime baseball play-by-play man Brian Jeffries will have some new locales to check out.

Arizona, like most power-conference baseball teams in warm-weather climates, play the vast majority of their non-league games at home. The exceptions usually come in the form of one-off mid-week games that get tacked onto the front or back end of a conference road trip. This past season, for example, the UA played at Grand Canyon on a Tuesday night on the way back from a weekend at Oregon State, did the same with a Monday tilt at UC-Irvine after playing three at Stanford, and were scheduled to face Cal State-Fullerton on the road ahead of a series at UCLA but that game was canceled due to rain.

So if it wants to stick with those pre- and post-series single road games, it may mean hitting up Tulsa on the way back from Oklahoma State, Wichita State after playing at Kansas or KSU, Rice after visiting Houston or Pittsburgh after spending a weekend in West Virginia. Texas alone has countless options.

The Big 12 holds its conference tournament at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers. The UA opened the 2022 season there in a tourney, going 3-0 with wins over Kansas State and TCU.


Arizona and California have been the program’s recruiting territory throughout its history, though under Chip Hale there’s been an added push into the Midwest thanks to the connections of recruiting coordinator Trip Couch. That doesn’t figure to change with the move to the Big 12, but don’t be surprised to see more of an effort to search for prospects in Texas since the Wildcats will be playing in that state so often.

California has been a nationally recruited state for quite a while, with many Big 12 and SEC teams reaching out to the West Coast for top talent. And with UCLA and USC moving to the Big Ten, a league with only a few programs that take baseball seriously, that may work in Arizona’s favor when it comes to getting prospects who might not be keen on having half their games be against inferior talent.

Arizona’s 2024 recruiting class, which would sign in November but not start playing until the Wildcats are in the Big 12, is currently ranked 31st in the nation by Perfect Game. ASU (16th), TCU (17th) and Oklahoma State (22nd) are higher. Two of the 14 commits in that class are ranked in the top 100, both in-state prospects, and the 2025 class (ranked 29th) already has eight commits and there are two pledged for 2026.