With the college football offseason in full swing, I thought now is the perfect time to start some endless speculation and discussion on conference realignment. This post is not about whether the Pac 12 would expand in the near future, but if they were to expand, who would be a good fit. And given that this is a Houston Cougars blog, I’ll be discussing if the Coogs would fit in as a conference member. This article is, like, my opinion man, so don’t misconstrue it for something it’s not.
Schools With Zero Chance At Pac 12 Membership
First up I’ll write about the schools that I don’t believe have a legitimate shot at Pac 12 membership. With the Colorado Buffaloes as a recent addition five years ago, I don’t believe the Pac would add Air Force or Colorado State as members. Both are solid mid-level football programs but wouldn’t really do much to improve either the Pac’s academic reputation or expand the conference into new major television markets.
Boise State is arguably the best non-Power Five football program but the school doesn’t really have much else. Boise is a small media market and the school isn’t known for being strong academically. Too bad for the Broncos because they’ve always been a very fun team to watch.
BYU has had some excellent football success and has one of the strongest fan bases in college football. The problem is the Cougars are a very religious institution and, culturally speaking, I don’t see any chance university leaders at Berkeley, Los Angeles, or Palo Alto would ever want to deal with BYU. Also, BYU is rumored to be hard to deal with and very demanding (like the Longhorns in the Big 12). The fact that the Pac invited Utah over BYU speaks volumes.
San Diego State, Fresno State, and San Jose State are all located in solid media markets and are potentially sleeping (G5) giants, but don’t have as strong as football history… though Fresno State is respectable. None of these schools have very strong academic reputations.
Teams That Might Be Bn The Pac’s Radar
The Pac was close to adding Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, & Oklahoma State back in 2011 before the four pulled out of consideration to remain in the Big 12. There’s lots of chatter from fans online about Texas and Oklahoma still both being candidates for the Pac but frankly I don’t see it happening. I think Texas burned that bridge in 2011 and I don’t see any way in hell they give up the Longhorn Network in order to join the Pac. I also don’t see Oklahoma following UT to another conference, given how focal OU has been with their displeasure about the Big 12 in recent months.
If the Pac 12 wanted to be very aggressive, it would be interesting if they offered the Houston Cougars in addition to Oklahoma. Or, a combination of Houston, Oklahoma, Kansas, and a fourth addition… possibly SMU, New Mexico, or UNLV. SMU doesn’t have a strong football program but Larry Brown is showing that the Ponies can compete on the hardwood and the ginormous Dallas market may be too big for the Pac to pass up. Also, by bringing in SMU, the Pac 12 schools would have a chance to increase their brand in front of the huge amount of Dallas area recruits.
Oklahoma would bring a traditional, blue blood power of a football program and a very strong basketball program which is currently in the Final Four. The Sooners also bring near-AAU level academics and they also have a strong presence in the Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Dallas markets. Kansas is a blue blood basketball program, an AAU member, and brings the Kansas City market. Both programs would be huge additions to the Pac 12 and would generate a lot of press coverage for the conference in a part of the country where the Pac isn’t even close to being on anyone’s radar.
Houston has shown the past few years that the Coogs can win in football and also, this season, that there’s a ton of potential in basketball. Houston would open up a gigantic media market for the Pac and also give each team a better chance to recruit the incredible amount of high school talent in the city. Houston vs Texas would be time match-up in the Bayou City, but Houston vs USC wouldn’t be too far behind, especially if the Trojans get to winning again like they did during the Carroll era.
New Mexico is tied for #180 on the US News list of best colleges and would bring a large amount of fans from both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Even though they don’t have a ton of recent football success, they’ve got a decent basketball program and would be an interesting pairing with Houston in the Pac if they didn’t like SMU.
Another interesting candidate would be the UNLV Running Rebels. Even though UNLV isn’t strong academically or on the football field, the basketball program has some solid history and the Las Vegas metro area with over two million people might be too big to pass up. If the school ever gets their billion dollar football dome built and increases the wins on the football field, the major power conferences may take much greater notice.
If the Pac 12 were to expand by two more teams, I would expect Oklahoma and Kansas to be at the top of their list. A more likely landing place for OU & KU would be the Big Ten. If the Sooners and Jayhawks are out than I would expect the Pac to either strongly consider a duo of Houston+SMU/UNM/UNLV or they decide to hold tight at twelve teams.