By now you’ve probably seen the reports about Oklahoma and Texas petitioning to join the SEC. It would be a seismic move that could create a domino effect on the other major conferences.
Without its two premier schools, the Big 12 could dissolve and put its other eight schools on the market for a new conference. And while Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said recently that the Conference of Champions isn’t looking to expand, he wouldn’t rule it out, either.
“I consider the Pac-12 an exclusive club with a high barrier to entry,” Kliavkoff said (via ESPN). “We love the schools and teams we have today. We’re not actively seeking to poach any teams from any conference, but we’d be foolish not to listen if schools call us.”
Historically, the Pac-12 has turned down religiously-affiliated institutions and preferred schools that are part of the Association of American Universities, an organization that, per its website, includes “66 public and private research universities dedicated to improving human life through education, research, and discovery.”
Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona State are the only Pac-12 schools that fall short of that exclusive club. Utah, which joined the Pac-12 with Colorado in 2011, became an AAU member in 2019.
Kansas and Iowa State are the only Big 12 schools in the AAU, but they—along with West Virginia and Kansas State—make little sense from a geographical standpoint.
TCU and Baylor are Christian schools.
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech seem to be decent expansion candidates. Texas Tech is located in Lubbock, just east of the New Mexico border. The Red Raiders actually used to be conference rivals with Arizona and ASU when they were part of the Border Conference.
Oklahoma State is located in Stillwater, about a six-hour drive northeast of Lubbock. That would expand the Pac-12’s footprint quite a bit but not to an unreasonable extent.
The Cowboys would give Texas Tech a geographical rival, and the strength of their revenue sports is a big selling point. Oklahoma State basketball has made 20 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1991, while OSU football has reached a bowl game 15 years in a row and posted six 10+ win seasons during that span. By those standards, the Cowboys would be in the upper echelon of the Pac-12.
What if we get really crazy and expand the Pac-12 to 16 teams like the SEC would be if it adds Oklahoma and Texas?
Mountain West powerhouse Boise State would be a big boost to the Pac-12 football landscape.
BYU, Utah’s rival, is a fit in that regard too but the Pac-12 would have to accept its affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while BYU would have to be OK with competing on Sundays.
Since we mentioned Utah’s rival, what about Colorado’s? Nah. Colorado State isn’t good enough at football or basketball to justify that.
San Diego State, which has been regularly ranked in those sports lately, is a better option. It’s already an affiliate member of the Pac-12 in men’s soccer and adding the San Diego market is a definite plus.
The same argument could be made for TCU, which would give the Pac-12 a foothold in the Dallas-Fort Worth market and another formidable football program. Baylor sort of fits into this category too. Waco is 90 minutes from DFW.
Again, though, their religious affiliations could make them a no-go. And none of these aforementioned schools besides Kansas and ISU are AAU members.
Nonetheless, in one proposal on Twitter, the Pac-12—err, Pac-16—adds TCU, Texas Tech, Boise State and BYU. The conference would then be split into two eight-team divisions—the north and south.
Personally, I think in that scenario it would make more sense to keep the original Pac-8 schools together and create a division of Stanford, Cal, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.
That would put Arizona on the other side of the Pac with ASU, Utah, Colorado, BYU, Boise State, TCU, and Texas Tech. If you’re a traditionalist like me, that probably makes you cringe.
So does the idea of Pac-12 expansion as a whole, but times change and Oklahoma and Texas leaving for the SEC seems like just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come for the college sports landscape.