Could the Big 12 be looking to add a team that doesn’t play football to the conference?
According to ESPN, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark met with Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford recently to discuss the Bulldogs joining the conference.
Sources indicate that Gonzaga has been exploring its conference options, as it has emerged as one of the premier basketball programs in the entire country. Both the Pac-12 and Big East have been engaged with Gonzaga, according to sources, but the extent of those conversations are uncertain.
Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference, a mid-major conference that Gonzaga has consistently dominated as it has grown into one of the top programs in the sport. The school has been transparent with the WCC about its conversations.
A Gonzaga move from the WCC to a conference like the Big 12 would be mutually beneficial on the men’s college basketball side. Gonzaga has dominated the West Coast Conference for years as it’s become an elite program and made every NCAA tournament since 1999. But the WCC doesn’t provide much top-level competition or TV money.
The Big 12, meanwhile, has established itself as an incredibly deep men’s college basketball conference. And adding Gonzaga would give the conference another perennial top-tier team to join Kansas and Baylor, the last two teams to win the men's college basketball national title. Annual matchups between the Bulldogs and Jayhawks would quickly be some of the more marquee games in college basketball.
Adding Gonzaga also would soften the blow of the departures of Oklahoma and Texas. The two schools are set to join the SEC in 2025.
The report didn’t put a timeline on any potential Gonzaga conference move. The Big 12 is set to have 14 teams for the next two seasons as BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF join the conference over the summer ahead of OU and UT leaving for the SEC.
If Gonzaga joined the Big 12 after they left, the Big 12 would have 13 teams outside of football and travel would become even longer for schools within a conference that's about to get even more spread out. The Big 12 would likely appreciate that presence in the Pacific Northwest, especially as the Pac-12 is set to lose UCLA and USC.
The Big 12 recently signed a new media rights deal with ESPN and Fox that will go into effect after Texas and Oklahoma leave.