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Who is next? Identifying the five most likely candidates to join the Big 12

By |2023-07-28T08:20:53-05:00July 28th, 2023|Categories: Local News, Sports|Comments Off on Who is next? Identifying the five most likely candidates to join the Big 12

With the news of Colorado’s departure from the Pac-12 for the Big 12 starting in 2024, the Big 12 which had been at 10 and is currently at 14, will now be at 13 for next season. It is unlikely that the Big 12 stays at an uneven number for the cleanliness of scheduling and other matters of business, so here is a look at the five most likely candidates to join the Big 12 with Colorado next in the future.


Next to Colorado, the school that Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has seemed to be working the most on is UConn. The Huskies are partly without a home, as they have been independents in football after leaving the American for the Big East in all other sports. UConn’s basketball history and prowess also fits what Yormark is clamoring for, basketball as a standalone product and building the perennial top basketball conference.

The only issue with UConn is the football program. The Huskies have only won 37 games dating back to 2011 and might be in a more hopeless state than Kansas. Jim Mora Jr. took over as head coach last season and offered a glimmer of hope going 6-7 against a fairly weak schedule. Might there be a way to add UConn without the downtrodden football program? More on that later…


Another constant school brought up in having an interest in joining the Big 12 has been Arizona. The Wildcats have a strong history in their basketball program that would fit right into the Big 12 and also give their fans a conference they feel is worthy of that history.

Some Wildcat fans and media members have been pretty open about their desire to join the league, the question would be, does the president and athletic director feel the same way?

If the answer is yes, the Wildcats would fit and be a welcomed addition to the league. Would Arizona be able to separate from Arizona State, which seems to have no desire to join the Big 12, without incident from the governing bodies in the state?


Washington was one of two other Pac-12 schools that many people were immediately penciling in as likely Big Ten additions. But the Big Ten seems to be content with the 16 they are set to have once UCLA and USC join the league in 2024. On Wednesday, new Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti said, “I’m not getting direction to do anything else other than that in terms of just what the conference looks like right now.”

A handful of different people around the industry also hinted on Wednesday afternoon that the Huskies might have some interest in the Big 12, especially now that the Pac-12 is left with just nine teams and still no TV numbers being presented.

Washington would be a must-add if they wanted to be in the Big 12, considering they would become the Big 12’s most valuable asset and might help convince another big fish from the Pac-12 to jump ship.


That Pac-12 big fish, is actually a Duck. Of the teams not currently in the Big Ten or SEC, the argument exists for Oregon to be the most valuable. They were in the same boat as Washington last year, with many expecting them to also be the next logical addition for the Big Ten. But again, if the Big Ten is standing pat at 16 teams for the time being and the Pac-12 is crumbling, then Oregon and Washington could walk together.


Gonzaga has been another talked-about and eye-catching school for Brett Yormark and the Big 12. The Zags don’t have a football program, but they do have one of the best basketball programs over the last 20 years with two national championship game appearances and plenty of other accolades.

Gonzaga would be perfect for Yormark’s Big 12 Basketball vision and there is a way to make this happen that includes all five teams on this list.

My crazy, but not all too out there theory for the Big 12 capitalizing on this realignment momentum they now have with the Colorado addition and collapse of the Pac-12 is this:

The Big 12 has Arizona ready to jump and join the league now that they see Colorado making the move. With just eight teams left and a bleak outlook, Oregon and Washington also come aboard pushing the Big 12 to 16 full members that play football and every other sport. Then the final two of Yormark’s hot commodities, Gonzaga and UConn join the league as non-football members.

How would that work for UConn? They are already a Big East member and have football as an independent. As a weak program that is still trying to build, the Huskies can remain independent in football and build a schedule that is better for their record and travel budget. Adding Gonzaga would balance things in the other sports and bring you to 18 schools in basketball, where a higher number of conference members is much easier to manage.

This also makes sense for the non-revenue sports, as adding Gonzaga and UConn in all sports except for football gives good travel partners for your schools that are farther west or east and outside of the Big 12 footprint with the main 10 schools in the middle of the country.

A little pie in the sky, I know, but Yormark and the Big 12 have been about dreaming big to keep the conference afloat, and to this date, they have delivered.



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