The Coming Apocalypse: If “Events” Force the Pac-12 To Expand Again, Who Shall It Be?


I think the Pac-12 is very happy right now to be sitting at 12 teams. Two times now in the last few years, the Pac-10/12 Conference flirted very seriously with adding Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M. In the end, most of us were very happy with the fact that this did not end up coming to fruition. While there was at least some appeal to the idea of having the old Pac-8 reunited and with the idea of Texas and Oklahoma showing up to Husky Stadium every few years, the pros did not seem to outweight the cons; noteably Texas wanting to become the dictator of the conference. In addition, other than Texas, most of us were very leery of the idea of adding schools who ranked in the 300+ range academically to a conference with so many prestigious Top 100 schools.

Larry Scott seemed to make the most of the situation by bringing in the two most respected academic FBS institutions in the western half of the country, who also happened to be located in the two largest media markets west of the Rockies not already included within the Pac-10 sphere of influence. Colorado and Utah definitely seemed like the best possible schools to add to bring the conference that coveted championship game and more eyes on TV sets. His bold move was rewarded handsomely with a huge TV contract and the beginning of the Pac-12 Network next year.

I think most Pac-12 watchers seem to think there is no reason the Pac-12 would expand again. They did their dance with the Texas/Oklahoma crowd, twice, and it seems highly unlikely they would go that route again. But, I don’t think anyone is convinced that the national conference realignment shuffle is over yet. While it has gone from the big boys (SEC, ACC, Big 12) down to the lower rungs (Sun Belt, Colonial, Atlantic 10), there is every reason to believe that another round of realignment is right around the corner and it will again include the major conferences.

As each major conference comes up to their next TV contract, they will be looking at ways to enhance their revenue and overtake each other in bragging rights. Then, there are the issues of scheduling difficulties and conference alignments. For instance, how weird is it that Missouri is in the SEC East? Working out football and basketball schedules can be tricky when you have 13 or 14 members and may be a lot easier to coordinate with 16 teams. There are also big time programs or major media markets to be claimed. So, do not be surprised to see conferences like the ACC, SEC, Big 12, and Big Ten start making moves in a year or two to get those numbers up to 16.

While there will certainly be some poaching of each other, I’d also expect to see schools in the Big East, Conference USA, and Mountain West become targets. Then of course, there are the independents like Notre Dame and BYU. Will the Big Ten aim for the New York City and Washington DC markets? Will the ACC aim for more Northeastern exposure? Will the Big 12 reach further west and north?

Which begs the question; If the other  five major conferences decide to go for 16, would the Pac-12 sit pat at 12? Maybe they will and maybe they should. Geographically speaking, it isn’t as easy to poach suitable schools from other conferences as it is for the other five whose overall ranges and media markets overlap with each other. On the other hand, if Boise State and San Diego State can play in the Big East, I guess anything is possible. But, I doubt the Pac-12 would reach out west of the Rockies unless it includes Texas. But, given the dance the past few years, that seems unlikely.

It does seem that the Pac-12 and Big Ten wouldn’t need to expand given their new scheduling alliance that gives each conference many of the benefits of expansion without having to actually add teams. But, Could the Big Ten say no to Notre Dame? Could the Big Ten give up a finger in the big East Coast markets? While the Pac-12 options are certainly not as palatable as the other conferences, there are a few that might fit in and give the Pac-12 a stranglehold on the western half of the country.

So, my question to you, the readers of Husky Haul is this; Should the Pac-12 start exploring expansion again, which schools would be acceptable to you? I’ve put together a potential list of schools based on institution size, academic reputation, and media market size. They are listed in the table below.  After checking out the table of data, please take the survey above asking which universities would be acceptable in an enlarged Pac-1X. You may click on more than one university.

UniversityMedia Market (rank)Academic Ranking (2012 USNWR)
HawaiiHonolulu (71)#164
San Diego StateSan Diego (28)^#164
Fresno StateFresno-Visalia (55)^#37 Regional West
NevadaReno (108)#181
UNLVLas Vegas (42)Ranking Not Published
New MexicoAlbuquerque-Santa Fe (44)#181
BYUSalt Lake City-Provo (31)^*#71
Colorado StateDenver (16)^#128
Boise StateBoise (112)#67 Regional West
Air ForceColorado Springs-Pueblo (92)*#33
TexasAustin-Dallas-Houston (48,5,10)*#45
OklahomaOklahoma City-Tulsa (45,61)*#101
Oklahoma StateOklahoma City-Tulsa (45,61)*#132
Texas TechLubbock-Amarillo (143,131)#160
* means national appeal
^ means market penetration

In case you were curious, here is how Pac-12 schools rank academically based on the 2012 U.S. News and World Reports Academic Rankings.

Pac-12 UniversityUSNWR 2012 Academic Ranking
UC Berkeley#21
Washington State#115
Arizona State#132
Oregon State#138