Crazy Thought: Should the Big 12 Pursue Basketball-Only Schools to Get Back to 12?Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 4th, 2013
On New Year’s Eve Monday the Gonzaga Bulldogs played (and won) their fifth non-conference game against a Big 12 opponent when they beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater. They won their first four games against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Baylor… which got me thinking: Why shouldn’t the Big 12 consider bringing along basketball-only institutions to help shore itself up in conference realignment? The Big East’s attempt at having football and basketball schools coexist was unsuccessful for two primary reasons: The league was created for basketball, not football, in the late 1970s; and the conference’s mainstays in football, Miami and Virginia Tech, were ultimately poached away by the ACC.
The Big 12 is arguably the second best power conference in college football. The league will enter a new alliance with the Champions Bowl in New Orleans, which will place the Big 12 football champion against the SEC champion each season. A new television deal with ESPN/ABC and FOX will keep their football anchors in place (Oklahoma and Texas) through the year 2025. With Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby saying recently that larger isn’t necessarily better, he would however listen if adding a school geographically or financially “moved the needle.” Whether that would happen in this scenario is up for debate, but that’s what makes it fun. Now if the Big 12 were to look at adding hoops-only schools, two would be the best number to add in order to get back to the original 12-team format. The league would have to move quickly as the seven basketball-only schools leaving the Big East are expected to meet Friday to discuss their options. With a “lot on the agenda,” you can bet expansion will be a big part of the conversation. So who should the Big 12 pursue?
Gonzaga makes some sense. They have dominated the West Coast Conference for a long time, they’ve produced a respectable number of NBA players in the last fifteen years and they definitely move the needle on the basketball side. For those who want to use the geography argument with Gonzaga as to why this cannot or would not work, remember that they have traveled to just about everywhere in the lower 48 to play non-conference games for the better part of a decade. In the past few years, the Texas Longhorns have opened up a Canadian pipeline with Myck Kabongo and Tristan Thompson that the rest of the Big 12 could benefit from as well. Plus, Seattle and Portland are not a bad recruiting base to tap into either.
And if they want to beat the Catholic 7 at their own game,they could go after one of these mid-majors: Butler, Xavier or Saint Louis. Xavier and Butler are reportedly already on their way to join the new Big East but we all know what would happen if the Big 12 came a-callin’. Saint Louis would give the league a presence in the state of Missouri again but it is a program in transition with the passing of coach Rick Majerus. If two of these schools join the league and eventually grow disgruntled over time and leave the Big 12, the damage to the conference overall will be minimal since it’s only two more schools. I know I’m grasping for straws here but doesn’t it sound crazy enough to work? I mean Kansas-Gonzaga every year? Maybe a Kansas State-Butler Elite Eight rematch? Would be awesome.