A lot of different articles have come out regarding whether or not the Zags will be making a move to a different conference or not in the past week. It gets super confusing, I can’t even lie. Here are the major points that stood out after doing some research:
- The Big-12 held its spring meetings last week and the conference expansion topic was right at the top of the agenda.
- The Big-12 commissioner, Brett Yormark, is waiting on a Pac-12 TV deal that could result in multiple schools leaving the Pac-12 (Colorado, Utah Oregon, Arizona?).
- Yes, the Pac-12 is still in the running to acquire the Zags despite all of its current issues. The league is a much better geographic fit than the Big-12, no question about it.
- For the Big-12, UConn (all sports) sits ahead of Gonzaga (only basketball) in which program they would want the most.
- The Big-12 would much rather expand the football division but it’s hard to find another football brand like Texas or Oklahoma out there. The basketball side of the league is missing one or possibly two big program names to put them over the top of the say Big-10 as the best basketball conference in all of college basketball (see quote at the end of the article).
- A Chicago consulting firm named Navigate and Gonzaga is working together to help inform its decision on a potential move to the Big-12 or another Power 5 conference like the Pac-12.
- Navigate evaluated how the nation’s top programs ranked against power-conference opponents in regular-season play over the last three years with a metrical called “TV Power.” Here are the Top 5: Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Gonzaga.
- Gonzaga skews a younger audience, attracting outside of its natural footprint thanks to its national brand name. Navigate’s metrics show that Gonzaga’s ratings against power opponents are 2.5 times higher than an average Big-12 game.
- Gonzaga has received a $15 million annual valuation, per one industry source, should it join a Power 5 conference for JUST basketball. That’s less than half of what an all-sport Big-12 member will receive ($31.7 million) beginning in 2025.
- Any movement in separating media rights would have to wait at least seven years until the Big-12’s new media rights deal expires in 2031.
- Who would pay for the Zags and Huskies if they were to switch conferences? It’s highly unlikely FOX or ESPN would want to reopen a Big-12 deal that has yet to begin, especially with the Zags as a basketball-only member. That money for Gonzaga would more than likely come from within the league. Schools might sacrifice some of their existing shares to convince Gonzaga and/or UConn. Plus, the Big 12 is sitting on the $100 million combined buyout it got from Texas and Oklahoma.
“We’re going to consider all options,” Yormark said. “We do see the upside in basketball for all the right reasons. We think it is undervalued and there is a chance for us to double down as the No. 1 basketball conference in America, but football is the driver. We all know that.”
I don’t know how this is all going to play out or when a decision will be made. Will the Zags get lucky and be invited to the Big-12? Does Gonzaga move over to the local but messy Pac-12? How about just staying put and dominating the WCC?
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho