COLLEGE SPORTS

Big 12 Basketball Coaches Reportedly ‘In Favor’ Of Expansion With UConn

Jun 6, 2023, 3:01 PM | Updated: 3:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Along with eyeing programs in the Pac-12, Big 12 expansion could consist of adding a basketball powerhouse.

There’s no one better in college hoops right now than the UConn Huskies. The defending national champions are viewed as a potential target for the Big 12.

Action Network College Sports Insider Brett McMurphy reported on Tuesday that Big 12 basketball coaches are “in favor” of adding Big East powerhouse UConn to the Big 12 Conference.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has made it clear that basketball is a piece of expansion that he wants to enhance in his conference.

“As I’ve said all along, we have an appetite to be a national conference in our makeup from coast-to-coast. And we do believe in the upside of basketball moving forward as a collective group. That being said, we love our current composition and love the four new schools that are coming in next month,” Yormark said to reporters last week. “However, if the opportunity presents itself to create value, we will pursue it.

The Big 12 Conference is often considered the No. 1 league in college hoops. In eight of the last ten seasons, the Big 12 has finished as the number one league in the Ken Pomeroy metrics.

Texas and Oklahoma have never been giants in basketball, but they have brands. Replacing them is difficult. UConn has one of the best basketball brands in the country. The Huskies have won five national championships since 1999.

Big 12 expansion: All-sports membership for UConn?

McMurphy also reported that UConn is “in the mix” as an all-sports addition to the Big 12 Conference.

Like the Huskies, Gonzaga is another program linked to potential Big 12 expansion. Yormark was asked directly in his Zoom call with reporters last week if Gonzaga is a basketball-only or all-sports option for the Big 12.

“We’re going to consider all options,” Yormark said. “As I said before, we do see the upside in basketball moving forward for all of the right reasons. We think it’s undervalued, and there’s a chance for us to double down as the number one conference in America. But football’s the driver, and we all know that. We’re exploring all options and all considerations at this time.”

That same message could likely be applied to UConn. The difference with the Huskies is that they do have a football program. UConn currently competes as an FBS Independent program.

The Huskies were previously in the American Athletic Conference but became Independent to allow its powerhouse hoops programs in men’s and women’s basketball to return to the Big East.

UConn could help bring New York to the Big 12

No one will ever mistake UConn football as a powerhouse. But a potential addition of UConn could get the Big 12 closer to the New York market.

Yormark has ties to New York from his time with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and Jay-Z. The Big 12 already has plans for its basketball programs to hold events over the next two summers at Rucker Park in New York.

Last fall, Yormark had a media blitz in New York City to showcase the Big 12 brand to various media outlets in the Big Apple.

The Big 12 will be a 14-member league in 2023-24, with BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston joining on July 1. Then it will drop to its namesake of 12 members in the 2024-25 year after Texas and Oklahoma leave for the SEC.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Big 12 Basketball Coaches Reportedly ‘In Favor’ Of Expansion With UConn