The first real conference move by a non-football school is being discussed.
Conference realignment chatter for months has centered mainly around college football.
That hasn’t stopped Gonzaga from being proactive behind the scenes in discussions with at least three power conferences.
ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported Wednesday that Gonzaga Athletic Director Chris Standiford met with Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark in the Dallas area last week about the possibility of joining the conference. The Zags were in town to face Tennessee in an exhibition game.
The Zags also have been in contact with the Big East and Pac-12.
The Big 12 is regarded by many as the best men’s basketball conference in the nation. The Big 12 has produced the past two national champions. Kansas won the title last season and Baylor captured the 2021 crown with an 86-70 win over Gonzaga.
There is interest in the Zags with the program’s rise to national prominence and its streak of 23 straight NCAA tournament appearances. Gonzaga has made the Sweet 16 in seven consecutive tournaments and lost in the 2017 and 2021 NCAA championship games.
Gonzaga, which joined the West Coast Conference in 1979, has won or shared the conference regular-season title for 10 straight seasons.
“I would say we’ve had contact through intermediaries or otherwise that are measuring interest,” Standiford said last week about Pac-12 and Big East, before the Big 12’s interest was known.
Standiford called those talks “exploratory.”
“We talk to a lot of people because it’s such a dynamic time,” Standiford said. “There’s so many different elements in college sports that everybody’s trying to figure out what the ecosystem is going to look like through these TV contract changes.
“So they’re not substantive conversations about anything other than measuring interest, what do you see the interest being, and a lot of them are value conversations when it comes to Gonzaga. We like to understand what are the things that other people value and make sure that aligns with us and the experience we want for our students. I think it’s a very dynamic time.”
Yormark, hired as Big 12 commissioner in late June, has stated the conference is exploring expansion options and has interest in the Pacific time zone. The conference, which is losing Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, is set to add BYU, Houston, Central Florida and Cincinnati.
“I can’t speak for (other conferences),” Standiford said, “but I can tell you at this point and time we believe we have an amazing product, an amazing opportunity to really innovate and be different in the college landscape, and have it be more than just football.
See here for the latest on the state of the Big XII, and here for more on the PAC 12, which would make a lot more geographic sense for Gonzaga but which isn’t as strong in basketball. The reporting I’ve seen indicates that all of Gonzaga’s sports teams would move along with the men’s hoops team – the Zags’ women’s basketball team has been a regular in the NCAA tournament as well – but I’ve not seen any mention of whether they would revive their football team, which last played in 1941, or not. ESPN has more.