The Gonzaga Bulldogs are reportedly in advanced discussions to join the Big 12 conference, according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel. Gonzaga is reportedly also in talks with the Pac-12 and Big East, although it is unclear how advanced those conversations have been. Since the Bulldogs don’t bring a powerhouse football program with them (GU hasn’t played football since 1941), this is simply a basketball play.
The Big 12 leaning into being a basketball conference would make sense, as the last two national champions (the Baylor Bears and Kansas Jayhawks) have come from the league. Gonzaga has long suffered at the hands of the NCAA Selection Committee from their light 16-game West Coast Conference schedules that drag down their RPI and NET opportunities.
This could be a match for both schools, and a real challenge for the WCC to find a suitable replacement. So much of the league’s revenue comes from the Bulldogs, despite them having a separate media rights deal from the rest of the league in their market. One trip to the WCC Tournament in Vegas will show how much of a 900-lb gorilla GU is, as their fans make up well over half the attendance at the event they’ve won nine of the last ten years.
Gonzaga has been in two national championship games in the five tournaments and would immediately add another known brand to the top of the Big 12. With Texas and Oklahoma set to leave the conference, adding Mark Few’s team would provide some cushion on the hardwood when it comes to marquee names.