The Pac-12 is at a loss following the sudden departures of UCLA and USC to the Big Ten. Nearly six million households in the Los Angeles area are now gone from the conference, making expansion an almost required next step.
A merger is another option, but the Big 12 isn’t interested, and the ACC would be difficult logistically.
Acknowledging the expected impact of the Pac-12’s potential next media rights deal, commissioner George Kilavkoff has the Mountain West nearby to poach from. The Big 12 and AAC are also of possibility, albeit not many of those schools are likely interested.
Below are 10 schools (varying in viability) that the Pac-12 should target for expansion:
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Not a Power 5 school, but the Las Vegas market is valuable — just ask the Raiders. UNLV also has a strong basketball history. Football needs to improve, though.
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Gonzaga’s recent success makes the Bulldogs an intriguing basketball-only school for the Pac-12 to add.
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While TCU’s religious history may not be attractive for the Pac-12, the Horned Frogs would be a valuable first footprint in Texas. The Athletic wrote this on TCU potentially joining the Pac-12:
San Diego State
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Perhaps the most obvious school for the Pac-12 to seek, San Diego State would allow the conference to get at least some of that Southern California market back.
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Boise State football has earned my respect.
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SMU, like TCU, is also a school with religious affiliations. But, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News sees some upside:
If the conference desires a foothold in Texas, the Mustangs stand as the easiest add. Unlike Houston, they were not invited into the Big 12 and remain in the depleted American Athletic Conference.
SMU carries the obvious religious affiliation and is neither a member of the AAU or an R1 research school.
Also, this is the worst possible time to welcome Texas politics into the conference given developments following the Roe vs. Wade ruling.
However, the Mustangs have an endowment in excess of $1 billion and are No. 68 in the latestU.S, News and World Reportrankings of national universities — higher than every remaining school in the Pac-12 except Stanford, Cal and Washington. (That’s impressive academic prowess.)
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It’s unlikely, yes, but you never know. The Athletic also placed Texas Tech as a possible candidate:
When it comes to the Big 12 schools — and you can add Baylor and Oklahoma State here as well — it ultimately comes down to this: With the Big 12 fairly stable, how much interest do they have in rescuing a staggered Pac-12? Per industry sources, Texas Tech long has fancied a move west, but that might recently have changed. Like Houston and TCU, this would get the Pac-12 into Texas, but that’s probably the biggest upside.
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Jon Wilner sees the upside of adding another California market:
California’s Central Valley is home to 6.5 million people — it’s the equivalent of Seattle and Portland combined — and a good portion of them are Bulldogs fans.
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The Pac-12 has wanted Houston before. It won’t be an easy snag, however, with the Cougars recently committing to the Big 12. Here’s what The Athletic wrote:
Nine months ago, with the sport still in shock after Texas and Oklahoma announced their SEC intentions, the Pac-12 considered expansion. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Houston and TCU were the conference’s top targets. Ultimately, the Pac-12 stuck with 12, Houston settled into the Big 12 and everything looked fine. Until Thursday. Location-wise, this works. Dallas-Fort Worth is the nation’s fifth-largest media market. Houston is eighth. This would also put the Pac-12 into the heart of talent-rich Texas, which would help with recruiting.
Houston makes sense.
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Kansas would fit right into the Pac-12 with its basketball team having a little more prestige than its football team. Athlon Sports agreed:
The Jayhawks have struggled to have success in football recent years, but there’s little doubt Kansas would add value to the Pac-12 for potential markets (Kansas City and St. Louis) and a standout basketball team.