Gonzaga The university is in preliminary talks to move from the West Coast conference to the Big 12, an industry source confirmed to Athleticism Wednesday. ESPN first reported the talks.
- The source pointed out that there was no immediate timeline and the Big 12 weren’t the only league to reach out to Gonzaga. The Pac-12 and Big East also spoke with Gonzaga.
- The source called the talks “real but early”, adding, “Everything is exploratory at the moment.”
- Indications are that Gonzaga would want any move to be a deal for all sports, not just basketball.
Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said in July that the conference was “Open for Business” a few weeks after being hired. He is focused on growing his brand nationally, although he stressed that any expansion the conference pursues must be financially additive and not dilutive. Interest in expanding the Big 12’s reach across all four time zones was considered in his discussions with Pac-12 members.
“On the men’s side, we’re arguably the No. 1 conference in America,” Yormark said last month at Big 12 basketball media day, a claim that will be bolstered by the addition of the new Cincinnati members. , BYUHouston and UCF in 2023-34. Yormark brings more basketball than football experience to his role and has spent more than two decades of his career working for NBA franchises.
Fox is expected to add Big 12 basketball games to its inventory as part of its new media rights deal with the conference. The Big 12 got a six-year extension with ESPN and Fox through 2030-31 and is worth north of $2.2 billion. The agreement should include a pro rata clause in case of future expansion.
The Pac-12 declined to comment. Athleticism Wednesday regarding conversations with specific schools.
Why would the Big 12 want Gonzaga?
Over the past two decades, Gonzaga has gone from being a Cinderella story to one of the most important programs in men’s college basketball, with two national title appearances in the past five playoffs as well as seven consecutive appearances at the Sweet 16. It’s also been the last few years that he’s started recruiting top prospects to Spokane, with the likes of Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren even bringing the occasional interest to Gonzaga’s basketball games. The school already has a stable working relationship with ESPN through the network’s broadcast partnership with the West Coast Conference.
Gonzaga also proved he could generate TV ratings: his November 2021 regular season game with duke was the second highest rated regular season game last season, watched by 2.79 million viewers. —O’Neil
Where are the Pac-12 schools?
The Big 12’s priority in its expansion efforts continues to be Pac-12 schools, as Athleticism has Previously reported. An industry source said Athleticism‘s Seth Davis as the Big 12 has also conducted preliminary introductory discussions with several top Five Eyes schools to maximize their options. —O’Neil
(Photo: James Snook/USA Today)