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‘Momentum’ for UConn to Join Big 12; ‘Mutual Admiration’ Between League and Gonzaga

Is it happening?



Devin Wilber/PFB

Adding Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and BYU might’ve been just the tip of the iceberg for the Big 12 it looks to establish its new presence in the latest round of realignment.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd on Tuesday reported that Gonzaga and UConn — two basketball powerhouses who could expand the league’s reach from the left coast to the right coast — are programs on the radar for Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark and among the many schools in hot pursuit.

Pac-12 schools — especially the Four Corner Schools, comprised of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — have largely been the topic of conversation when it comes to potential future Big 12 expansion. And given the Pac-12’s current predicament, with no new TV deal and a wave of uncertainty, those schools appear to still be viable candidates. HOWEVER, Gonzaga and UConn — either in addition to the Four Corner Schools or as separate acquisitions — would be equally as big boons for the Big 12, particularly as it builds out its reputation in basketball circles, and both right now seem to be circling the Big 12 …

Here’s Dodd:

Commissioner Brett Yormark reiterated that expansion had been discussed. The situation was further described to CBS Sports this way: There has been “mutual admiration” at the presidential level between Gonzaga and the Big 12; however, there is stronger “momentum” for UConn to join the league than Gonzaga at the moment.

Gonzaga is regarded as one of the best and most stable basketball programs in the sport, having dominated the WCC for decades under Mark Few and recently ascended to a new level with two title game appearances since 2017. UConn, meanwhile, meets all the criteria for a basketball blueblood, having just won the national championship earlier this year as one of the banner schools in the basketball-hungry Big East.

The momentum around UConn’s potential leap to the Big 12 has gained steam in recent weeks, which would on its face seem perplexing given how it just won the national title and appears set to succeed as a power of the Big 12. The move could allow the Huskies to jump-start their football program with an influx of power-conference cash, and here’s the kicker: Yormark sees the future of the league in such a way that the value of basketball programs — which UConn absolutely presents — may be staggering if separated from football. Yormark’s vision is this, from Dodd:

Yormark believes, with the interest of streaming properties on the rise, college basketball will be worth more to more suitors in the future. There are those in the industry who disagree. One key issue: Any movement in separating media rights would have to wait at least seven years until the Big 12’s new media rights deal expires in 2031.

It may be a delayed payoff in adding UConn — at least monetarily — but the idea of doubling down for the Big 12 and establishing itself as the power conference in the sport could be appealing and provide a way of differentiation from the Big Ten and SEC in the market that could in time increase the league’s value.

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