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Pac-12 Football: If the Conference Expands, Which Teams are Candidates to Join?

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff

New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff's introduction to the job could be navigating the conference through an expansion

Similar to the ACC and Big Ten, the Pac-12 is certainly evaluating expansion and realignment in the wake of the SEC’s move to add Oklahoma and Texas. And new commissioner George Kliavkoff said as much during the conference’s media day on Tuesday. However, Kliavkoff also said something else that was important. The interest the Pac-12 has received from programs wanting to join was “significant.” However, the commissioner also indicated “we do not think expansion is required to continue to compete and thrive.”

Whether or not the Pac-12 decides to expand may take some time for the conference to deliberate behind closed doors. But what if the conference did decide to expand to 14 or 16 teams? Judging by Kliavkoff’s comments, expansion is a longshot and seems unlikely at this point. But let’s dive into the candidates to see where the conference could go if it expands:

Pac-12 Football: If the Conference Expands, Which Teams are Candidates to Join?

Top Candidates from Remaining Big 12 Members

The Jayhawks would probably prefer an invite to the Big Ten, but if one isn’t going to arrive anytime soon, the Pac-12 is a more lucrative opportunity than the remnants of the Big 12. The basketball program is strong, but football has been a struggle with just one winning season since 2008 and nine overall victories since '15.

Oklahoma State
It’s a toss-up between Oklahoma State and West Virginia for the best program remaining out of the eight Big 12 members. The Cowboys are a better fit for the Pac-12 than the Mountaineers in terms of geography and would bring a program capable of top-25 finishes on a consistent basis to the conference.

The Horned Frogs can sell access to the valuable Dallas-Fort Worth area for recruiting, along with a program that has been successful on a consistent basis under head coach Gary Patterson. Also, Amon G. Carter Stadium recently underwent a major renovation.

Texas Tech
A program with a reputation of consistently producing high-powered offenses would make a seamless transition to the Pac-12. Texas Tech can sell a steady football program to the conference, as well as games in the state of Texas for recruiting purposes.

The Bears don’t bring a major media market to the table, but the program is the reigning national champs in men's basketball, while the football product has improved significantly in recent years. Baylor opened McLane Stadium in 2014, and the program can sell its location in the fertile recruiting grounds of Texas.

The Next Tier

Boise State
There’s a lot to like at Boise State in a 16-team Pac-12 expansion scenario. The program is a perfect fit in terms of geography, has been one of the top Group of 5 programs on an annual basis and the city of Boise would be a good road trip for visiting fans. However, the Broncos are probably farther down the list for the Pac-12.

With Utah already in the conference, it’s probably a longshot for BYU to get in the Pac-12. However, the program has a national (and large) fan base and would certainly bring viewership to the conference’s games on television. Being competitive on the football field also won’t be a problem for a program that’s posted just four losing seasons since 1974.

Another longshot, but the Cougars are in a major media market – a factor that’s crucial to a conference looking to improve its television deal. And with access to elite talent in the state, the right coach (as proven in recent years) can win a lot of games here.

Iowa State
The Cyclones have good leadership atop the athletic department, a football program on the rise under head coach Matt Campbell and a passionate fan base. However, if the Pac-12 expands, Iowa State is likely behind the schools from Texas and Kansas in the pecking order of candidates. The Big Ten – if it expands – would be a better fit.

Kansas State
In the hierarchy of teams from the Sunflower State to join the Pac-12, Kansas State is likely behind in-state rival Kansas for a spot. K-State doesn’t bring a major media market (Manhattan), but the fan base is strong (averaged 48,818 fans a game in 2019) and facilities have improved in recent years.

San Diego State
With the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, the Aztecs should be able to get some extra attention in the city of San Diego. Also, a new stadium and more recruiting territory in California are always positives to sell. However, adding another team in the Golden State probably wouldn’t move the needle in terms of value to television partners.

West Virginia
Geography isn’t on West Virginia’s side here – even if the football program is capable of finishing in the top 25 on a consistent basis. The ACC is a much better fit.

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