Conference realignment chatter is heating up once again, and the Big 12 finds itself at the forefront. Commissioner Brett Yormark made it clear the league was “open for business” last year when he took over, and another program has been connected with the conference.
UConn is reportedly “one of several schools” Yormark is considering for expansion, The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach and Max Olson reported Thursday. That confirms a report from Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, who said UConn could be a target for multiple conferences looking to expand.
The Huskies are independent in football, but compete in the Big East for basketball and other sports. Of course, they’re coming off a national championship this past season by defeating San Diego State — another program, appropriately, coming up in realignment rumors.
Interest in UConn could mean Yormark is looking for success beyond football. The Big 12 is adding Houston — a national basketball power in recent years — along with UCF, BYU and Cincinnati next season. That means the conference will be at 14 teams before losing Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC in 2024, which is one year earlier than originally planned.
Early in the 2022-23 basketball season, a report from The Action Network’s Brett McMurphy detailed a meeting between Yormark and Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford before the Bulldogs took on Texas. The Athletic also reported the Big 12 was in “deep discussions” with Gonzaga, and Yormark confirmed conversations have taken place.
However, he noted “other things” he’s “focused on” regarding expansion.
“I like Gonzaga,” Yormark said ahead of the Big 12 Tournament in March. “Obviously, great program. My focus right now is to see what happens to our industry. There’s a lot of moving parts. I continue to have conversations with Gonzaga, but I think, as I prioritize what our next move might be in expansion, there’s other things right now that I’m focused on.”
Additionally, Yormark could look westward to expand the Big 12 — and four Pac-12 schools have reportedly been on his list. The “Four Corner” schools of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah have all reportedly had conversations with the Big 12, The Athletic reported in March. The report said the conference had “recent discussions” with those programs as questions continue to swirl about the Pac-12.
Media rights has been the biggest question mark for the Pac-12 as the league continues to work out its next deal. Although rumors and reports linked multiple companies to the conference — including Apple and ION Television — questions have risen about what the negotiations will mean for the league’s schools. Remember, USC and UCLA are both leaving for the Big Ten in 2024, and it appears Yormark and the Big 12 are trying to be in position to land any programs that might leave.