How The Pac-12 Can Become The Pac-14
By Christopher Wuensch
Are you familiar with those photos that show before-and-after aerial shots of a landscape ravaged by a natural disaster? Never pretty.
When we look back at a map of the FBS’ conference alignment in a decade’s time, we might experience the same visceral reaction when bearing witness to how much different the landscape of NCAA looks from its former self.
Need proof? It’s already begun.
We’re coming off a season, after all, that saw a dozen teams in the Big Ten and 10 teams in the Big 12.
Louisville in the ACC? Rutgers as a Big Ten school? Conference USA adds…Old Dominion?
It’s only a matter of time before the West expands again and the Pac-12 wheels out its covered welcome wagon for two new schools.
So who should it be?
Who We’d Love To See: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas or Texas Christian
Who wouldn’t want to add Oklahoma or Texas to their conference? (Other than those teams that ever want to win again)
With a jump to the Pac-12 (Pac-14), the Longhorns and Sooners can keep their rivalry intact. By adding Texas and Oklahoma, the Pac-12 would have a virtual recruiting death grip that would essentially run the entire West coast from the Puget Sound to Texas’ Gulf Coast.
Texas and Oklahoma are keystone programs of the Big-12, however. It’s hard to imagine the conference will allow them to walk without a fight.
"Settling" for Texas Christian and/or Oklahoma State would also be huge addition for the conference in both football and basketball. The likes of Nebraska and Texas A&M also come to mind, but, alas, both are coming off recent conference-floppings.
Also Considered: Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State
Who We Think It Will Be: Boise State, Hawaii, UNLV Or San Diego State
San Diego State makes the most sense. It’s only a matter of time before the Pac-12 wants to expand into California’s second-largest market; and with both the Aztecs’ football and basketball programs on upticks, that time might be now.
Boise State gets heavy consideration based on its history — kind of like an aging player who gets rewarded with a new contract that compensates for past success. Although, the Broncos’ success isn’t anything to scoff at. Since their debut in 1996, Boise State has lost only 51 games. They’ve only finished below .500 twice (their first two seasons) in their entire history. If new coach Bryan Harsin can keep the program thriving, they’re sure to get consideration from the Pac-12.
The drawback to adding Boise State? Idaho isn’t exactly in a premium market. Comparatively speaking, San Diego County alone has twice as many people as does the entire state of Idaho and its 1.5 million residents.
The notion that “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is a bit of a misnomer. Sometimes Vegas broadcasts for the entire world to see — which would be the idea behind the Pac-12 adding Nevada-Las Vegas among its ranks.
The conference has had tremendous success with Sin City playing host to the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. Pac-12 officials chose Las Vegas for it hoops tourney over other bidding cities such as Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Seattle. You can bet football wants a seat at that poker table somehow.
Unlike with Boise State or Hawaii, the conference would gain a basketball program with some history behind it with the addition of UNLV.
The gridiron problem with adding UNLV? The Running Rebels haven’t done much running…throwing or defending lately. Not very well, at least. The Rebels were able, however, to break a string of four-straight, two-win seasons with a seven-victory campaign and bowl-berth last year.
You don’t get any more “Pacific” than Hawaii.
And the Pac-12 is lining up to face the Rainbow Warriors. Ever wondered how Southern California played 14 games last year, despite not playing in the Pac-12 title game? The answer is the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
The Trojans took advantage of a NCAA loophole that allows teams to schedule an extra game on their slate if they agree to play Hawaii at the rust box known as Aloha Stadium.
Washington and Oregon State are taking advantage this season of said loophole. Plus, the Rainbow Warriors will travel to Colorado this fall, further broadening ties with the Pac-12. As of right now, 10 of Hawaii’s 26 scheduled out-of-conference games through 2022 are against Pac-12 opponents.
Simply put, home games equal revenue. You’d think every team would be clamoring for the extra game. A trip to Hawaii isn’t too shabby, either.
Hawaii is a vital recruiting pipeline for many, if not all, Pac-12 schools. The Aloha State exported 60 players to the mainland in 2013, including potential Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
The Rainbow Warriors also have a deal with the Big-10 matchups with the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin slated for 2016-17. That could be mighty enticing for the Pac-12.
Also Considered: Nevada, Fresno State
Who It Probably Should Be: Colorado State, New Mexico, New Mexico State Or Utah State
Stop rolling your eyes. The Pac-12 or 10 or 8 — or whatever it’s been called — has always had a symbiotic alignment when it comes to rivals. In short, every school has its own in-state counterpart, i.e. Arizona and Arizona State or Oregon and Oregon State.
That symmetry was disrupted when Colorado and Utah joined the conference in 2011. Henceforth, adding Colorado State and Utah State makes the most sense — at least cartographically speaking.
Sure Utah State has finished ranked in the AP Polls just once in the last 57 years, but that once was in 2012. The Aggies have made the postseason three consecutive years now. They came within a touchdown of beating No. 19 Southern California, No. 24 Fresno State and cross-state rival Utah.
Despite its recent bona fides — including just seven seasons above .500 this century — Colorado State is a program pointing north under Jim McElwain, the offensive architect of two of BCS titles at Alabama.
You never know, the Rams could contend for some Mountain West Conference hardware, given transitions at Boise State and the loss of Derek Carr and David Fales at Fresno State and San Jose State respectfully.
Combined, Colorado State and Utah State bring 207 years of football tradition and 952 wins (nearly split in half, oddly enough, with the Rams’ 481 all-time wins to the Aggies’ 471 victories).
If symbiosis is the Pac-12's thing, then the conference could strongly consider adding New Mexico and New Mexico State.
The problem? Both the Aggies and Lobos field…let’s call them football teams. Neither have had a winning season in the last seven years. New Mexico State has been to just three bowl games in its entire 81-year-history.
While it could be a conference-wide boon for basketball, football might take some cajoling.
Also Considered: BYU, UTEP