With George Kliavkoff hired as the new Pac-12 commissioner, conference expansion is about to be a topic … maybe. What schools should be targeted?
Pac-12 Conference Expansion: 10 Ideas For Schools To (potentially) Target
So that’s how you make an entrance.
The Pac-12 announced it was going to introduce its new commissioner, and then … hello MGM executive George Kliavkoff to the college athletic landscape.
What did we learn from his first remarks?
1. He’s planning on moving to San Francisco, but his hiring all but certainly means Las Vegas will eventually be to the Pac-12 what Atlanta is to the SEC. That’s very cool.
2. He pretty much let it slip that College Football Playoff expansion is probably coming very, very soon. That’s very cool.
3. The idea of being a player in the legalized sports betting world isn’t taboo like it’s been from the dawn of time in the college world. That’s very cool.
And then there’s the part that might end up being the biggest shakeup of all.
4. Expansion. The topic has been shockingly dormant for way too long. Yeah, the Pac-12 might look into being bigger, better, and stronger as a conference and a business.
That’s very, very cool.
So let’s do this. Let’s figure out what ten schools would make the most expansion sense so the conference can finally move away from pretending to be excited about playing its football games after dark.
It really is okay to showcase your product while half of the country is still awake.
Which schools would help make the Pac-12 a bigger national thing? Who should the conference be talking about pitching?
Start with the geographic concerns. Of course it would be nice to have a bigger footprint, but there’s a bit of a limit. There was a time when Louisiana Tech and TCU were in the WAC – sky point – but the Pac-12 isn’t going to want to get too crazy.
There’s also a bit of a reality check. Going after Notre Dame would make sense – geography, schmeography – but the school is way too tied to the ACC.
Going after Missouri would be an idea, and there was a time back in the early 2010s when Texas A&M was on the table, but those two aren’t leaving the SEC.
Going after Nebraska might seem like a home run cut, but for all the complaining during the 2020 Covid year, no, no one’s willingly leaving the cash machine that is the Big Ten.
When, not if, I become the advisor to Commissioner Kliavkoff on the topic, here are the ten schools that have to be in the discussion for a possible Pac-12 expansion move.
Remember, this isn’t as much of a sports story as it is a business one.
Enrollment matters – there won’t be any pitches to smallish private schools here – and the media and TV markets are a huge deal.
The school has to be big academically, too. Even if it’s not on the level of Stanford or UCLA, if it’s a giant university, that works.
And there’s also an assumption as we say the quiet part out loud – the Big 12 is potentially ripe for the picking.
So with that, here are the ten schools the Pac-12 should have on the table if it really does want to expand.
Pac-12 Expansion Fit: Business-wise, it’s perfect.
It’s a huge school with an international following – quick tip: never use the word passionate when it comes to sports business; fans are brand loyal customers – that’s going to watch every single second of every single big football and basketball game.
The greater Salt Lake City TV market is fine, the natural rivalry with Utah is outstanding, and the teams are good enough to make the sports side of the league stronger.
But there’s a gigantic, however …
The Church-owned and operated aspect to BYU is a concern for a whole slew of reasons – not a public school, no sports on Sundays, ideological differences on several levels – and the University of Utah already gives the league a big footprint in the state.
The Pac-12 should think about it just because BYU would make the conference bigger and bring in a ton of money and energy, but it won’t happen. The two will end up having a Notre Dame/ACC relationship.
9. Boise State
Pac-12 Expansion Fit: This isn’t as obvious as it might seem sports-wise.
The football program is outstanding, but the school, the media market, and the overall base would be part of a debate. However …
Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington. Bring on Boise State and it becomes part of that whole group and turns into an instant rival for that Wazzu team 300 miles up the road.
It’s not quite as big a school as the Pac-12 might like, and the Boise State national brand name isn’t enough to move the needle, but for what it’s worth, the addition takes over a giant geographic section of the country, and Idaho is a big vacation spot for Californians – it would be a destination road trip.
For this to happen, though, Boise State would have to be part of a Mountain West package including …
8 Fresno State
Pac-12 Expansion Fit: Fresno State helps geographically as it brings in a whole new part of the California base that might expand things a different way.
There just isn’t any national interest in Stanford or Cal, and people in Delaware aren’t going to stay up to watch Fresno State, but it ties in geographically to the Bay Area schools, the Sacramento TV market, and would charge up a decent-sized media area that – in a good way – doesn’t quite fit the normal Pac-12 style.
It would depend on the other Mountain West schools the Pac-12 would go after. Along with several Pac-12 schools, Fresno State fits in perfectly as a geographic rival with …
Pac-12 Expansion Fit: This is a tough one.
Nevada and Fresno State make as much sense as any other possible Mountain West pairing, and it depends on just how much the Pac-12 wants to take over the state of Nevada.
Obviously UNLV will be on the table – more on that in a moment – so this can be seen in two ways. Either the Pac-12 would take UNLV and assume it has the state of Nevada – even if Reno is a whole separate area and base – or it jumps on the Rebel-Wolf Pack, Fremont Cannon rivalry and makes it more of a thing.
The big issue would be that Nevada just isn’t quite big enough. The media market is okay-not-great, and there’s no national fan base to up the overall profile.
6. Texas Tech
Pac-12 Expansion Fit: Who else from the Big 12 are you getting?
Texas Tech actually wouldn’t be that awful a steal if it’s by itself. It was supposedly part of the idea ten years ago to be a part of a Big 12 group that would join in the mix, but it brings its own decent TV market, there’s a big enrollment, and the fan base has its own style that would add something unique to the California-centric league.
In the college sports geographic world, being 700 miles away from Arizona State and Arizona isn’t all that bad, and it would tie-in easily with Colorado just 550 miles away.
However, Texas Tech won’t go rogue. It’ll take others from the Big 12 to get the ball rolling, and then it would want to take the ride with the cool kids.