Pac-12 closer to inviting San Diego State, quiet on SMU, not interested in Rice; Fresno State & Big 12 talking
The Pac-12 will regain a foothold in Southern California with the Aztecs. Will SMU be next to help the Conference of Champions enter Texas?
The Pac-12 appears to be headed back to the expansion line, although it’s unclear who the teams area. All indications are that commissioner George Kliavkoff will be extending invites in the coming weeks to San Diego State to join the Pac-12, while Southern Methodist University isn’t quite locked down.
San Diego State athletic director John David Wicker seems to think the Aztecs are on their way to the Pac-12.
The Aztecs also are pretty confident in their press releases that good news is on the horizon. Here’s an announcement of a new San Diego State hire, for example.
“Aztec athletics welcomes back Moosbrugger at this transformative moment in the history of San Diego State when a high level of strategic leadership is needed for the fundraising efforts related to campus expansion, the new landscape of college athletics, and an upcoming facilities improvement campaign — all of which will play a critical role in our overall success as a department and a university.”
Everything fits for the Aztecs. With no UCLA and USC, the Pac-12 have no footprint in Southern California, an absolutely vital market for TV rights negotiations. San Diego is not Los Angeles, but it provides some presence in the region that cobbles together enough of a presence in the west. The Aztecs regularly field competitive basketball and football teams. Additionally, the Aztecs are closing in on R1 institution status, fitting the conference partner ideal academic profile.
Things are a bit quieter on the SMU expansion front, who probably sit as the 12th team. Although overtures appear to have been made, it might be a harder sell to the Pac-12 presidents on how the Mustangs fit into their media footprint when closer candidates like UNLV and Colorado State exist. While SMU is definitely in the mix, this is not the lock that San Diego State appears to be.
Essentially, SMU does potentially bring the Dallas market, but SMU clearly lags behind Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech in terms of branding in that area.
One other school with a similar profile to SMU (second-tier Texas program in large TV market of Houston), with much higher academic bona fides, is Rice. But Rice does not seem to have been engaged by the Pac-12 in any serious talks at the moment.
You’d have to figure SMU would want a potential rival to join them from around the area. Perhaps Tulane, a good academic school fresh off upsetting USC in the Fiesta Bowl, would be worth a look?
One potential close expansion candidate for the Pac-12 is Fresno State and the central California market. But it seems the Pac-12 is less interested due to the lower academic profile and fear of eating into the real estate of Cal and Stanford.
Fresno State appears to have gotten the hint and is engaging the Big 12 in early talks as well. The Big 12 has shown interest in moving into California and Fresno might be the most attractive target for the near and foreseeable future, as Cal and Stanford are unlikely to ever join the Big 12 due to lack of academic and cultural fit.
The realignment wheels keep turning.