Analyzing Conference Expansion: Pac-12 at Standstill, Big East Should Merge

In my previous article taking an overall look at conference expansion, I briefly discussed possible teams to turn the Pac-12 into the Pac-16.

The Pac-12′s commissioner, Larry Scott, has stated the conference does not plan to expand anytime soon, which makes sense, despite reports that Texas and Oklahoma are close to joining.

He also said that before adding Colorado and Utah.

Certain schools make sense geographically such as Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno State, but the Pac-12 is an academic/ research focused conference.

They won’t accept religious based schools either, that’s just the way it is. No Baylor, TCU, or BYU, period. That’s unfortunate because Brigham Young would be a good fit otherwise.

Hawaii puts more into research than Utah, provides a great counterbalance to the distance teams travel with Colorado in the conference, and they have a dedicated fanbase.

That’s opposite to Utah – remember the battle over why BYU couldn’t join, the claimed discrimination by the LDS Church? None of those problems exist with Hawaii.

The problem is their academic rating. They rank at 164th in the nation.

Not exactly ideal, but then again, neither is Arizona (124), Utah (128), Arizona State (132) , or Oregon State (138). Its more about research, of which Hawaii spends about 300 million, higher than half of the conference. So why wouldn’t Hawaii work, exactly?

The market isn’t huge, but the entirety of Hawaii would be solely within the Pac-12, and Hawai’i already boasts the highest attendance within the WAC at 37,000. That’s better than current Pac-12 school Washington State and if Aloha Stadium sold out, Hawaii’s attendance would be be better than half the conference.

Travel distance is obviously a problem, the distance from Pullman, Washington (Washington State) to Boulder, Colorado (University of Colorado) is roughly a third the distance from Pullman to Hawaii (Pullman is roughly halfway between the northern schools). Altogether, Hawaii fits the Pac-12. Traveling should be the least of the conference’s concerns.

Fresno State ranks 37th in the nation academically, but have little money spent on research, which ultimately holds up their invitation. That, and I’m not sure the “big boys” from California want to share their recruiting with yet another in-state school.

If Larry Scott and co. were to invite any other schools, it would probably be from the Big 12. Oklahoma and Texas seem the most likely at this point. Both are high profit, high research, prestigious universities. It’s one heck of a trip for schools like Oregon, Washington, and UCLA, but the money is worth it.

Despite everything you can read, statements from universities, etc., I highly doubt Texas will ever be a member of the Pac-12. For one, it would need to be renamed. The Pacific 12 ceases to be Pacific based.

Two, its own “Longhorn Network” and Big 12 network contract will keep it nice and cozy within its current conference. Bob Stoops called the Red River rivalry “unnecessary”, so its not as if Oklahoma will complain without Texas.

The recent announcement Texas made demanding Big 12 reform means that Texas, Oklahoma, and company really do want to stay in the Big 12. It seems more like the Pac-12 is a backup plan in the case that the Big 12 conference doesn’t appeal to what Texas needs. Which, to be frank, would not be smart on the Big 12′s part.

Oklahoma might serve to gain from the move, but just like switching to the SEC, they would throw a fit without Oklahoma State. That rivalry provides great revenue and the Pac-12 is smart enough to invite both. Inviting Texas means inviting Texas Tech, or TAMU, however TAMU has its eyes set on the SEC.

Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are among the most profitable universities in the country. Bringing them to the Pac-12 along with Texas, Hawaii, or any other school would be extremely profitable.

Texas could remain in the Big 12, or go independent. The Longhorns would thrive independently, same as Notre Dame. Longhorn Network brings in great revenue, they have a recruiting stronghold over the state of Texas (which would only increase if they added Texas High School football to their network), and rebuilding the Big 12 takes a lot more effort than skipping out.

So now the Pac-12, hypothetically, has Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Who’s the number four? Texas Tech, Hawaii rival Fresno State (unlikely, see above), or Boise State.

Boise State, athletically, makes the most sense. They invite to play BCS schools “anytime, anywhere”, so this would be a perfect way to prove that. No longer could haters make claims Boise State isn’t a real football team, doesn’t play in a real conference, etc.

The hold up? Again, academics, research, the size of the university in general. It’s the 67th ranked university just in the western region, barely in the top 500 nationwide, only spent $35 million on research last year according to a Boise State spokesman, and retains about 19,000 students.

That’s slightly more than the private Stanford, and less than any public university (University of Oregon has 23,000) in the conference.

Another Boise State spokesman listed their chances of receiving an invite at “unlikely until (our) research funding receives a significant increase”. No doubt if such an invitation were extended it would be readily accept by the Broncos.

One possible solution is, because Boise State an associate school in wrestling, to extend that associate school privilege to football.

Boise State could be a member of the Pac-12 in wrestling and football, then remain a member of the Mountain West Conference in all else.

I fully support Boise State joining the Pac-12 in any capacity, as there would be an instant rivalry between Boise State and Oregon. Bad blood already exists between the two schools, for obvious reasons.

It is safe to say, for now at least, no invitation has been extended to any school by the Pac-12, nor have Texas, Oklahoma, or any other program applied for membership. The Pac-12 is currently at a standstill.

There were also rumors of the Big East merging with the Big 12 – the Big East schools merging into the Big 12 . Both were ransacked during realignment over the last two years, Big 12 losing Colorado (Pac-12) and Nebraska (Big Ten), Big East losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse (ACC). UConn, Rutgers, West Virginia, and possibly even Villanova are set to leave the Big East as well.

The Big 12 are in danger of losing Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Missouri. Missouri is reportedly “two steps away” from joining the SEC. If they, with TAMU, leave the Big 12, there wouldn’t be much left. I already stated the Pac-12 is at a standstill – at worst the Big 12 loses two schools to the SEC.

These two conferences will have little hope for the future when the dust settles from this recent batch of realignment.

Big East officials met on Tuesday to discuss the future of the conference. They still have 16 schools left in basketball, which is why football may have to be abandoned – they are not a football conference, lets be honest.

Even though the Big East retains an automatic BCS bid, schools regularly struggle against FCS schools and overall play incredibly weak schedules.

As a basketball conference, the Big East remains a powerhouse with membership including Cincinnati, Louisville, Georgetown, Connecticut, and Syracuse.

Nearly half the conference have won an NCAA championship (or at least a Helm), and all but one have made a Final Four appearance.

My opinion? Abandon football. The Big East still has basketball among other sports, and this merger seems like a golden opportunity. Keep the conference alive for basketball (saving the membership of several schools), but those schools that have football can be associate members of the Big 12.

While we don’t know exactly where the Big East schools will end up, one thing is certain – the Big East’s days as an FBS conference are numbered.

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  • dru

    Fresno state should have been invited along time ago..our research program is great especially in agriculture..Pac 12 would get great exposure for have the only agriculture research and wine making school in the country.and if we got the money that the Pac 12 schools get we would be able to research more and upgrade our facililties more not dat their already not great cuz we have top notch facilities..n then recruiting we already share recruiting with all the so called big schools so invite fresno state and we can give them so called big schools even more of a challenge to become even better..and then last the area we are in..the valley..there is close to 10 million people here and they are all pretty much frank state bulldog fans..so its a great tv market..fresno state is a new and gtowing brand of footbal and I think the so called big boys are just scares to tango with us!!!! Go Bulldogs!!