Big 12 administrators reportedly discussing Gonzaga’s candidacy at conference meetings
Feb. 2, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:17 p.m.
Gonzaga's incumbent Athletic Director Chris Sandiford speaks during a press conference to announce AD Mike Roth's retirement and introduce Standiford as his successor on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga and the Big 12 have had at least two discussions about the possibility of the Zags joining the conference.
Now the conference is reportedly discussing Gonzaga’s candidacy as Big 12 presidents and athletic directors conduct meetings Thursday and Friday in Dallas.
CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported the Zags are on the meeting agenda and specifically GU’s potential membership in basketball. Gonzaga’s preference, if it does eventually change conferences, has been to join in all sports.
The Zags, who have been members of the West Coast Conference since 1979, have been in conversations with at least three conferences – the Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East – as it continues to examine potential options.
“We’re always looking to see what’s available,” Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford said at halftime of the GU-Santa Clara game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. “It’s a priority for us to do what’s best for all of our student-athletes.”
Standiford declined to comment on Dodd’s article.
The first reported discussions between Standiford and Big 12 Conference commissioner Brett Yormark about Gonzaga possibly joining the Big 12 took place in the Dallas area while the Bulldogs were in Frisco, Texas, to play Tennessee in an exhibition game on Oct. 28.
The two also spoke prior to the GU-Texas game in Austin in mid-November at a event with approximately 500 people. The meeting apparently wasn’t previously arranged.
Yormark has said multiple times he would like to see the conference add members in the Pacific time zone.
“Obviously, going out West is where I would like to go, entering that fourth time zone,” Yormark said in September.
The Big 12 is considered the best basketball conference in the country. The last two national champions (Kansas in 2022 and Baylor in 2021) play in the highly competitive Big 12.
Adding Gonzaga would bring another national power into the Big 12. The Zags are the only team in the country to play in the past seven Sweet 16s. They’ve reached the national title game twice, falling to North Carolina in 2017 and losing to Baylor in 2021.
Six Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 15 of the latest Associated Press poll, led by No. 7 Kansas State, No. 8 Kansas, No. 10 Texas and No. 11 Baylor. The Zags are ranked No. 12.
The Big 12 is adding Houston, Cincinnati, Central Florida and the WCC’s BYU next season. The conference is losing Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC in 2025, but there will reportedly be discussions at the Big 12 meetings about a possible early exit for those two schools.
The Big 12 is also interested in Pac-12 schools Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah, according to Dodd.
The Pac-12, which is losing USC and UCLA to the Big Ten in 2024, would be the best fit for Gonzaga geographically with a travel schedule similar to GU’s current one in the WCC.
The Pac-12 hasn’t been as vocal about potential expansion candidates as the Big 12. The Big 12 has reportedly reached a media rights agreement that will pay each school nearly $31.7 million while the Pac-12 is negotiating a new media rights deal.
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