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Ranking Candidates For Next Wave Of Potential Big 12 Expansion

Jul 28, 2023, 2:28 PM

Big 12 Expansion, Candidates, Washington Oregon Big Ten...

Sizing up potential Big 12 expansion. Where would Oregon and Washington rank? (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Big 12 expansion is a hot topic after adding Colorado.

The addition of the Buffs brings the Big 12’s membership to 13 teams in 2024. It seems unlikely that the league would have an odd number of teams for next year.

The Action Network’s Brett McMurphy told the KSL Sports Zone’s Hans & Scotty G on the Big 12, “They’re not going to stay at 13. The next question, I’m sure, is, ‘Who’s number 14?’ That is an unknown.”

We’re all wondering who that 14th team could be for next year.

Ranking potential Big 12 expansion candidates after Colorado move

Let’s pour over the possibilities with my ranking of potential Big 12 expansion candidates. From the best to the buy low prospects.

1. Oregon

The Ducks would be a massive coup for the Big 12. In the 21st century, the Ducks have become a national brand in college football. Autzen Stadium aligns nicely with the Big 12 in terms of capacity crowds that make Saturdays in the fall an event.

Oregon also has excellent basketball programs that would enhance the strongest basketball league in America.

2. Arizona

There’s an argument to make Arizona number one on this list. But if you’re Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark, you dream big and go for the Ducks if you can get them. Arizona would be an excellent addition to the Big 12 because they have a blueblood basketball program.

Wildcat fans always bring loads of fans to Pac-12 Basketball Tournaments; they’d probably still find a way to make their presence felt in Kansas City for Big 12 Tournaments. Plus, the football product has always had the potential. Head coach Jedd Fisch is starting to realize the potential by landing some talented recruiting classes.

3. Washington

Washington has an outstanding football history. It’s the best among the remaining PAC-12 members. You have to wonder if the Seattle market would ever get on board with the Huskies competing in the Big 12.

The Huskies have been in the PAC/PCC since they launched their football program in 1916. Going from the west coast to a national league centered in the Midwest is a significant change for fans with many pro sports options.

4. Utah

If you based things on the fake world of social media, Utah would be the most polarizing candidate on this board. The biggest asset to Utah joining the Big 12 is a football program that will enhance the on-field product. Plus, they give the Big 12 a signature rivalry with BYU. TV networks love rivalries that pull in big ratings regardless of records. Put the nastiness of BYU/Utah on a Power Five stage annually; this state and the Big 12 markets will likely be tuning in yearly.

Having BYU in the Big 12 already could also hurt Utah. Does Yormark want to tap into other markets? He’s made it clear he wants a conference from coast-to-coast and to get into a fourth timezone. BYU and Colorado both deliver late-night opportunities in the mountain time zone already.

5. Arizona State

The biggest attraction to Arizona State would be the Phoenix market. But, like Washington, would that market care about ASU in the Big 12? The Sun Devils have seen attendance dip over the last five years at football games by 11%. That’s with USC and UCLA in the PAC. Can anyone expect the gate receipt to improve if it was matchups against Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas? I’m skeptical.

The potential has always been there for the Sun Devils, but everyone’s been saying that since they left the WAC for the PAC-8 five decades ago.

6. UConn

UConn has powerhouse basketball programs that could give the Big 12 some presence in the New York market. Brett Yormark is a New York guy. He created events at Rucker Park for the league and held a media blitz in NYC last year. That market matters to him.

The downside is UConn football. There was an uptick under Jim Mora in year one, but if their history indicates, they would be a team that drags down the Big 12’s football metrics. But their basketball programs and market make them intriguing.

7. Oregon State/Washington State

These are the two programs that everyone has deemed with no options if the Pac-12 folds. Would they listen to a lifeline from Yormark and the Big 12? TV networks probably wouldn’t want to kick in the pro-rata clause for either, but it’s that fourth timezone.

Oregon State has already publicly expressed its support for staying in the Pac-12. That could be a sign they don’t have any other options, so what are they supposed to say?

8. San Diego State

The Aztecs want the Pac-12 badly. They were telling football players over the past year to expect an invite. That invite never came as the Pac-12 continues to work through a media rights deal. The interest in the Big 12 is unknown.

San Diego State is locked into the MWC until 2025, or they could pay the MWC $34 million to get out in 2024. The Aztecs would give the Big 12 access to the Pacific timezone, a California market, another great basketball brand, plus a football program that has proven to win consistently in the MWC after BYU, Utah, and TCU left.

9. UNLV

Brett Yormark loves the idea of “tent pole events” in the Big 12. What better place to deliver marquee events than Las Vegas? UNLV’s market, playing at Allegiant Stadium, and the history of its basketball brand are what make them intriguing.

From the football side, the Rebels are comparable to UConn.

10. SMU

SMU would be a better option than Memphis, in my opinion. The Mustangs have SWC ties with TCU, Baylor, Houston, and Texas Tech. Adding SMU would also make it clear that DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) is Big 12 country as the SEC looks to make inroads in that market with the addition of Texas to the league.

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’scoverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on Twitter and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Ranking Candidates For Next Wave Of Potential Big 12 Expansion