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Saving the Pac-12: Florida State and other schools who could help keep it alive

Saving the Pac-12

The potential death of the Pac-12 is the biggest travesty of conference realignment. A league that has given us Heisman Trophy winners, countless titles in all sports and a connection to the most stories postseason event ever going away? Blasphemy.

What can we do to save it? It won’t ever be the same, of course, not without USC and UCLA and that connection to Hollywood. But it needs to stay around in some form.

So let’s rebuild it. Washington State and Oregon State are in control of the league and the base schools, of course, so let’s give those two some partners to give it a good foundation for market size and recruiting bases.

Potential Pac-12 expansion schools

As we said, to be a strong league, the schools in it need to be able to get athletes. So the members need to be located in fertile recruiting areas.

Football is king these days, so we need to have some schools that can bring in players without having to spend too much on travel. That is, until we can get a TV contract for everyone to benefit from.

Memphis Tigers

Saving the Pac-12: Memphis
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For some reason, the Memphis Tigers have been ignored by the Big 12, the conference that would have been a perfect fit. The city is in the heart of SEC country and in TV market size, it’s 51st.

The high schools produce loads of football talent. Schools like Alabama, Tennessee and Ole Miss, among others have been getting talent from Memphis high schools for years, so being in a better league might have helped the Tigers keep some of those guys at home.

The football Tigers have been a pretty consistent bowl team the past few years, but the basketball program has been the flagship of the athletics department, going back to the late 1960s.

The Tigers have been to three Final Fours and two NCAA championship games. The Pac-12 tradition of being good in hoops could carry on here.

Tulane Green Wave

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Tulane at Southern California
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Located in New Orleans, there is no shortage of football talent within a short distance of campus. Every year, players who don’t even make the all-city team end up at major programs.

In the past few years, the Green Wave has been able to keep a few of those guys at home and started winning. In 2023, they beat USC in the Cotton Bowl. It was the first major bowl for Tulane since 1940 when it was in the SEC.

It has a new on-campus football stadium — well, new by college football stadium standards, it opened in 2014. Being in a more prestigious league would be good for attendance in a city that already loves football.

New Orleans ranks 50th in the TV market, and it would be another school in the middle of SEC country.

Related: Why are there so many college football bowl games?

UNLV Running’ Rebels

NCAA Basketball: Jerry Colangelo Classic-UNLV at St. Mary's
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

OK, hear us out on this one. The football program isn’t good. Then again, not all programs in the old Pac-12 were good either.

But what UNLV has is its home city. Las Vegas is a place everybody wants to visit for the shows and the food. If the Rebels were in a bigger conference, with a possible TV deal, they might be able to attract better talent. Plus, we all remember the Runnin’ Rebels of the 1970s-90s. Who says that couldn’t be revived?

Nevada hasn’t been known for producing the best high school talent, but that’s starting to change. Vegas is still one of the fastest growing cities and that population will give you more athletes.

Las Vegas is the 40th largest TV market, another positive. It also has Allegiant Stadium, which would be perfect for a championship game. Oh wait, it’s already there. Fans of every school on our list would love a trip to Vegas for a conference tournament or a football championship. Just sayin’.

San Diego State Aztecs

NCAA Basketball: Final Four National Semifinals-Florida Atlantic vs San Diego State
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We were this close to the Aztecs being in the conference already. So, now it should get done.

San Diego State has been to the Sweet Sixteen of March Madness three times since 2011 and played in the 2023 national championship game.

The football program produced NFL greats like Marshall Faulk and 12 former players are on current rosters. South California is great recruiting, with schools from all over the country coming in to get players.

San Diego 30th TV market and has perfect year-round weather. Who wouldn’t want to play a football game there in November?

South Florida Bulls

NCAA Football: Boca Raton Bowl-South Florida at Syracuse
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Hey, Stanford and Cal are going to the ACC, so why don’t we bring East Coast teams out west?

Like the other schools on this list, South Florida is located in a fertile recruiting area. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Orlando, and western and central Florida are loaded with talent.

The school is still fairly new to Division I, so there’s not a lot of great history here. Then again, let’s go with some recent bias and point out that the football team just blasted Syracuse in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Tampa would be our biggest TV market at 11th-best and we would need to do some selling to get the locals on board, but since we’re selling the Pac-12 instead of the American Conference, we should be able to pull it off.

Connecticut Huskies

NCAA Basketball: Final Four National Championship-San Diego State vs UCONN
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Yep, we’re just looking to make a big circle around the country. And, remember what we just said about the East Coast/West Coast thing … that’s why we’re eyeing UConn.

The basketball program, men and women, need no selling. Both are at the top of the food chain and would instantly bring the league to the spotlight when it comes to hoops.

Football still has a way to go, but the school has committed to improving it, hiring former NFL coach Jim L. Mora, to coach, and sinking more money in.

Hartford is the 30th-largest TV market. Recruiting for football might not be the best, although the school should be able to draw from the New York area. No problem with basketball recruiting.

Related: How much it will cost for Florida State to leave the ACC

Florida State Seminoles

NCAA Football: ACC Football Championship-Louisville at Florida State
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When Florida State entered the transfer portal, that made it attractive to our new league.

We need a football power, and if not for a pesky injury to the quarterback, the Seminoles would have been in the College Football Playoff. Or, so the playoff committee says.

Tallahassee would be our smallest TV market of the schools we’ve added, ranking 105th. But Florida State has a national audience and that market size won’t hurt.

It solidifies our hold in Florida, one of the best states in the country for athletes.

With Florida State being the flagship football program and for what it will have to pay to get out of the ACC, this would be an expensive add. School officials would demand a bigger cut of any TV contract money. But, if we could pull this off, it would be worth it.

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