The PAC-16? Here’s how all parties would benefit following Big 12 fallout

Brett Esch
4 min readJul 26, 2021
Image via Texas Tech Athletics

With Texas’ and Oklahoma’s departure for the SEC all but finalized, other Big 12 institutions have already proactively begun taking steps towards ensuring their safe landing in another ‘power five’ conference should the league indeed halt operations for good.

Three of these schools — Texas Tech, Baylor, and TCU — have reached out and opened a dialogue with the PAC-12 about potentially joining the conference, according to a report from TCU insider Jeremy Clark.

While this would obviously put a fork in many of these programs’ historic rivalries, the competitive playing field is a near-perfect match for all of these potential ex-Big 12 squads. It’s a move in which all parties involved would benefit in a multitude of ways.

In order to create the ideal 16-team league, the conference would have to look for a fitting suitor to fill the final spot after extending an invitation to the ‘Texas Three’— and it should be a no-brainer: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will be stuck in no-man’s-land following Oklahoma’s departure, and it’ll retain (at the very least) a trace of a Big 12 rivalry for Texas Tech.

With those four squads added to the fold, the upsides for the PAC-12 are simply too significant to pass up — especially those that include creating ties with the state of Texas.

It doesn’t take much investigation to discover just how deep Texas’ love for football runs. Unfortunately for the PAC-12, they haven’t had the opportunity to claim a stake in the Lone Star State’s football landscape.

Last week’s news could change that.

The obvious facet to this benefit is the fan engagement of those in Texas who have longed for a reason to watch — or even pay attention to — PAC-12 football. With three of the state’s largest schools potentially in the mix, the fanbases of these programs would fold into (and heavily invest themselves in) the conference.

Additionally, the conference could see the quality of their product increase due to an influx of recruits from Texas. The state is known for breeding tremendous talent, and the PAC-12 has played second-fiddle to the likes of the Big 12, SEC, and Big 10 in recruiting for far longer than the conference would like to admit. This would be their chance to equal the footing in the nation’s deepest hotbed of playmakers.

Another upside to the potential expansion is straightforward: By expanding into both Texas and Oklahoma, the PAC-12 would naturally receive greater media attention as a result of a jump in public interest. This is another area in which the conference has been strides behind its fellow ‘power five’ peers.

For the schools — Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma State — there’s plenty of upside as well, with the most obvious being the PAC-16 superconference’s ability to strengthen these teams’ College Football Playoff hopes.

The other primary upside is being able to finally escape the Big 12’s love affair with 11 a.m. CST kickoffs and become part of the ‘PAC-12 After Dark’ scene, which has become a draw for nationwide attention on its own. For rabid fanbases and programs that have been starved of the national spotlight, such as Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, it’s a match made in heaven.

And if the idea becomes a reality, it’s the spectators who will benefit the most. With all four of these potential suitors joining the conference, fans can expect competitive, evenly-matched contests on a weekly basis. This is what has allowed — and will continue to allow — college football to be one of those most dominant sports in America.

With expansion, here’s what the PAC-16 superconference could look like:

North Division

Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, Colorado, Utah.

South Division

Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, USC, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State.

With each team playing a slate of seven divisional games and two interdivisional games — in addition to the standard three non-conference games — a system for balanced scheduling would be both simple and ideal for allowing each team a crack at their ‘signature win’ that the College Football Playoff adores so much.

It’s also worth nothing that rivalry games can easily be maintained (and scheduled at the same time every season) as they’ve mostly been preserved by the new divisional alignment. Texas Tech-Oklahoma State could be the Thanksgiving staple. Arizona-Arizona State could be played annually as the next-to-last game, followed by Oregon-Oregon State to cap off the regular season.

No matter how the schedule shakes out, it’ll make for great football.

And while the entire situation is still very much fluid with new developments making it to the public eye by the hour, we’re starting to get a sense of just what the NCAA Division 1 football landscape will look like once the damage created by Texas and Oklahoma has taken its toll.

For our four proposed expansion teams, this move is a no-brainer.

Thanks for reading. Keep track of every new story I publish — as well as updates that pertain to my existing stories — by following me on Twitter.



Brett Esch

Native Texan. Communication Arts major at Bethel College. Sports and freelance journalist.