Gonzaga is a basketball school. This isn’t breaking news or anything new. The Bulldogs have been a dominant team in the basketball world for decades under Mark Few, and their program has nearly become a blue-blood type school with success under the head coach. While a National Championship is one of the only things missing from his resume, Few has consistently built winners and proven why he is one of the best coaches in the country.
There is one issue, though. In the era of conference realignment, massive television deals, expansion, and all this other crap, could little basketball Gonzaga be forgotten in the West Coast Conference? The program has won 21 of 22 conference championships, and it’s not like there have been many difficulties. If the Bulldogs wanted to make a big play and a big splash and get into the national conversation, they would join the PAC-12.
I know what you’re thinking: Does Gonzaga have a football team? No.
But that hasn’t discouraged other schools from joining the PAC-12 in similar fashions. Cal State Bakersfield, a pretty minuscule school in the central valley of California, is a PAC-12 wrestling school. UA Little Rock, a school that isn’t remotely close to the West Coast, is also in that conference.
Their schools don’t add a single shred of value anywhere else. But hey, they fill out a competitive wrestling conference, and that’s all that matters. So I see no issue with Gonzaga filling out an already competitive basketball conference by adding themselves into the mix. It would be wise for the other member schools to add them as USC and UCLA depart for the Big 10 next year, and other conferences look to pick off others.
The biggest issue likely is other coaches and AD’s actually wanting Gonzaga in the mix, where they would have to compete with them year after year and likely lose out on the shot to win conference championships. But the PAC-12 is in a dire state, and they need to jump if there is a chance for them to improve drastically.
So how does this help Gonzaga exactly? Well, massive national brand recognition, for one.
This would put the Bulldogs on a national network at least once, if not twice per week, while playing the top talent in the country. Gonzaga is a national brand in March. But what about the other four months of the college basketball season, where fans seem to check in on the scores and not do much else for the Bulldogs?
This move would truly put them on the map; it would generate massive revenue through media rights agreements and even give them a better chance of recruiting. It sounds funny, but high schoolers love to boast about the conferences they play in. If a recruit can put PAC-12 basketball players in that Twitter bio instead of Western Conference, you are likely pulling in even more 5-star recruits.
John Canzano spoke with Mark Few and wrote an article about a potential move, and it sounds like Few would also like to decide which conference his team will eventually play in. As they rack up different agreements with schools like Tennessee and Kentucky, the PAC-12 should be frowning at that as they miss out on those nationally televised games with the dark-horse powerhouse of college basketball.
Few made a great point to Canzano as to why we continue to follow this traditional sort of league structure.
“We’ve always just done stuff because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” he said. “It’s always been, ‘You’re in this league. You’re in that league. You guys stay in your region, and you stay in that region.’ …I have no idea why we don’t have leagues different for every sport.”
It seems like college athletics are changing every second of every day. In the last two years, we have introduced NIL deals, we have expanded the rules of the transfer portal, have seen conferences poach the best schools from rival conferences, which has resulted in massive realignment, and maybe even the eventual downfall of the current NCAA structure as we know it.
So hell, why not change things up and allow Gonzaga to jump into the PAC-12 solely as a basketball school? It benefits the fans. It creates better competition, more riveting primetime action, and will challenge the Bulldogs in a way they haven’t been before.
Suppose the current schools of the PAC-12 want to remain in the conference without falling by the wayside altogether, and Gonzaga intends to raise their brand awareness and attention. In that case, this is an easy move for both parties involved, and I think I speak for most college basketball fans when I say, let’s make it happen.