If the Pac-12 Expands, Who Would You Choose? Part I


As a follow up to the previous article regarding the chances of the Pac-12 expanding to 16 teams, I wanted to address the numerous comments and ideas people offered regarding who those four additional teams would be. This is part one of a three part series looking at who the possible candidates are. Part I will focus on candidate #1; the University of Texas.

Barring a surprising and unforeseen turn of affairs, I think all of us can agree than the Pac-12 will not expand unless the University of Texas at Austin were involved.

The University of Texas is one of the largest universities in the United States with over 50,000 students. It is located in Austin, the state capital of Texas, which has a population of 790,000+ residents. While often overshadowed by its larger neighbors Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, it is actually the 14th largest city in the United States. The metropolitan area ranks 35th with 1.8 million.

But, the reach of the Texas Longhorns goes so much further than Austin. It is the most followed university in the state (with over 28 million people). San Antonio, just 80 miles away and with 2.4 million residents lacks a major university and mostly follows UT. In addition, due to the sheer size and solid academic reputation of the university (ranked #38 in the world), it has an enormous alumni and fan base that is spread out into the major urban centers of Texas and across the country. Athletically, the Texas Longhorns have a long and storied history in both football and basketball. They may be the most followed program in the country (with Notre Dame perhaps its biggest competitor historically) and would be the #1 target of any conference seeking to add members.

Culturally, Austin is the most liberal city and has the best quality of life in Texas. Home to a burgeoning high tech industry, it has been drawing highly educated engineers, doctors, and professionals for the last 20 years due to its well built city plan full of parks, lakes, low pollution, entertainment options, and family-friendly neighborhoods. Austin bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World”. It also is the most gay friendly community in the state. Located in the Texas Hill Country, extensive natural areas, hiking options, and great scenery appeal to outdoors oriented people. In fact, other than the deserts of West Texas, it is the only part of Texas with interesting natural features to explore. Frankly speaking, Austin is like a little island of Seattle or San Francisco surrounded by the rest of ruby red Texas.

So, it is obvious that culturally and academically that the University of Texas would fit into the Pac-12 much better than it does in the Big 12 or SEC. Those conferences contain universities far lower down in academic reputation and culturally are much more conservative.

The biggest competition for Texas would probably the Big Ten. The Big Ten is certainly the closest match academically and culturally to the Pac-12. If the Big Ten decided to make a move south, they could aim to add Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M, and perhaps Kansas or Oklahoma. However, I think it is more likely the Big Ten is aiming east. Clearly the markets of the northeastern part of the country fit them better.

I don’t know if Texas cares about whether it will have to play games two time zones back (and thus late at night back east). But, no matter where they play, the TV sets would tune in and Texas would add great value to whichever conference gets them to join.