The original Pac-12 chose to be patient with the expansion. It thinks it can wait and find the perfect fit or hold steady. In the wake of USC and UCLA leave Big Tenconference has lost that luxury.
The Pac-12 Board of Directors met on Friday morning and conference authorization for extended discovery. The future of the conference is at stake. A former conference administrator told The Athletic“I don’t know if they will recover from this.”
Obvious roadblock: The Pac-12’s expansion options aren’t great. Despite the success in football and substandard media payouts, the conference has always provided some degree of stability. This is no longer the case. USC and UCLAThe exits cracked the foundation.
Commissioner George Kliavkoff’s first duty was to keep Washington and Oregon in situ. No Trojans and Bruins, Pacific Northwest schools are holding conferences together. This will not be easy. The second is to find the right school that not only matches the Pac-12’s profile but also helps the conference in upcoming media rights negotiations. Let’s take a look.
State of San Diego: The Athletic asked several industry sources about Pac-12 expansion candidates, and each one starts here. The Pac-12 never seemed to have been taken seriously by the State of San Diego, mainly because it operated within the California State University system, but it was time to give the Mountain West campus a strong presence. San Diego has the 28th largest TV market, which isn’t ideal, but adding the Aztecs would give the Pac-12 a presence in some parts of Southern California. This cannot be ignored. On the athletic front, San Diego State recently outperformed many Pac-12 schools in boys’ soccer and basketball, so that shouldn’t be an issue. The football program has posted five seasons with more than 10 wins in the past seven years. The men’s basketball team has competed in the NCAA Tournament nine times since the 2009-10 season. Most importantly, the Aztecs demonstrated a commitment to taking the next step. This fall, they are expected to open the $310 million Snapdragon Stadium as their next soccer home. There is some momentum here.
Boise State: Another Mountain West program, Boise State has always been a popular expansion contender simply because of its football success. That’s a nice starting point. The Broncos will compete in Pac-12. Additionally, the men’s basketball team just won the Mountain West championship and competed in the NCAA Tournament. Geographically, Boise also fits the Pac-12’s footprint. (Geography doesn’t matter anymore.) Biggest drawback: Boise Market doesn’t offer much media value.
Houston and TCU: Nine months ago, with the sport still shocking after Texas and Oklahoma announced the SEC’s intent, Pac-12 considered expansion. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Houston and TCU were the top targets for the conference. In the end, the Pac-12 stuck with 12, Houston settled into the Big 12 and everything was fine. Until Thursday. Location wise, this works. Dallas-Fort Worth is the nation’s fifth-largest media market. Houston is eighth. This will also put the Pac-12 in the heart of talent-rich Texas, which will help with recruiting.
Houston has a point. The problem TCU raised is that Pac-12 is generally of little interest to schools with religious affiliation. But over the past few years, TCU has distanced itself from those relationships. The Pac-12 is also in no position to be picky.
Texas Tech: When it comes to the 12 major schools – and you can add Baylor and the State of Oklahoma here – finally coming to this: With the Big 12 being fairly stable, how much of an interest do they have in rescuing a wobbly Pac-12? According to industry sources, Texas Tech has long imagined a move west, but that may have recently changed. Like Houston and TCU, this will bring the Pac-12 into Texas, but that’s probably the biggest vantage point.
Worth checking out
SMU: If schools in the Big 12 are not an option, then SMU is worth checking out. The American Athletic Conference School lacks the soccer prowess that San Diego State and Boise State can provide, but SMU delivers media value in Dallas. Like Houston and TCU, the addition of a Mustang will also help with recruiting.
UNLV: Another Mountain West school, UNLV will offer little to elevate the Pac-12 in terms of competitive balance, but the Las Vegas market is very attractive. In addition, the convention was in Sin City, hosting the post-season soccer championship and basketball tournament there.
– Max Olson, Christian Caple and Chris Vannini contributed reporting.
(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)