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PFB Roundtable: Which Programs Should the Big 12 Prioritize if it Expands Again?

Gonzaga? UConn? The Four Corner Schools? All the above?



As evidenced by Tuesday morning’s bombshell that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV tour are merging to create a world tour, one thing seems truer now than ever: realignment never sleeps.

I’m mostly joking, of course, but the news came out of nowhere this week with any realignment chatter in sports mostly centered around the Big 12, not in professional golf. So where there is smoke, the saying goes, there often is substantiated scuttlebutt about UConn and Gonzaga considering a move to the Big 12 and the Four Corner Schools seriously contemplating leaving the Pac-12. (That’s how the saying goes, right?)

Any who, with realignment rumors in full swing once again for the Big 12 and with seemingly increased traction among Pac-12 schools (as well as the aforementioned UConn and Gonzaga), I put out the bat signal to our team to try and answer one question: which programs should the league prioritize if it expands again? I left it an open-ended question and gave them freedom to answer how they please. I ranked my candidates below.

Marshall: The tough part is adding value. To that extent, the four corner schools, at this point, seem to provide the most value because (as big of a hoops guy as I am) football reigns supreme. Of the schools, I like Utah the most but only slightly. I know Utah’s AD tweeted within the past few months downplaying a move, but a lot has changed in that time. And by a lot has changed I mean the Pac-12 hasn’t done anything to better position itself.

Why Utah? Well for starters, it has the most consistent of the four-corner football programs. I also like the idea of the Big 12 adding the Holy War rivalry because the league is lacking some natural rivals with OU-Texit.

I love the idea of Colorado because, to me, geography still matters, and Colorado is Big 12 country. The football program seems to be on the up (or at least has some hype surrounding it). Then Arizona and Arizona State have good qualities as well. But in conclusion my ranking of the four corner schools, while close, would be:

1. Utah
2. Colorado
T3. Arizona
T3. Arizona State

I love basketball. I just don’t want the league’s eyes to be bigger than its stomach when it comes to UConn and Gonzaga. I don’t know the financials around it, but hopefully those in charge are firm in their projections.

Boone: When it comes to realignment for the Big 12, I think the old Pokemon theme song is best applied here: Gotta catch ’em all. If you’re the league and you’re trying to establish a legitimate force and presence in the new environment to combat power players like the Big Ten and SEC, the best strategy in my view is to do it with geographic reach and with numbers.

To that end, I think if I’m Brett Yormark my strategy is to quite literally try to prioritize them all — separated by two groups. The first group is the most obvious: the Four Corner Schools. With the Pac-12 in shambles, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah seem up for grabs. That’d boost the Big 12’s reach, academic credentials and of course bolster the Big 12’s television portfolio and reach.

After that I’d go for the stray basketball-heavy programs — starting with UConn, and then with Gonzaga. UConn is a power player in the basketball-heavy Big East and a blueblood program on that front having just won another national championship. With Dan Hurley at the helm, the Huskies are positioned as well as anyone to continue to dominate the league for years to come.

Gonzaga would be my next, and last, target, but certainly still highly important. Like UConn, there’s no real value here on the football side — maybe in time there could be — but the value the Zags could bring as basketball power players would help the Big 12 double down on its status as the best conference in the sport, hands down.

Cox: Marsh and Boone have done a great job laying out how these schools could add value or better position the league for sustained success and growth. I’m going to go with my gut which is led by a sometimes unhealthy dose of nostalgia.

Here’s how I rank the handful of schools that seem to have the most traction in terms of Big 12 rumors.

1. Bring Back the Buffaloes
2. Utah
T3. Gonzaga
T3. UConn
T3. Arizona
6. Arizona State

The Buffaloes may have wandered from their Big 12 borders but I’d accept them back with open arms just to tickle my nostalgic bone. They never really fit in the Pac-12 and I think a return to the conference may be whats needed to inject life into a football program that’s been a shell of its former self. Bring Primetime to Central Time.

I like Utah as an overall solid add and the in-tact rivalry with BYU, as Marshall stated, is a bonus in my book. Gonzaga, UConn and Arizona would each add even more prestige to the nation’s top hoops league. If Zona State must come along to even things out, so be it.

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