5:02 p.m. ET
Gonzaga’s athletic director met in person with the Big 12 commissioner last week as part of broader discussions about the Zags joining the Big 12, sources told ESPN. The discussions are part of the possibility of a basketball powerhouse seismic move leaving the West Coast Conference for a power conference.
Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark met with Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford at the Hyatt in Frisco, Texas while the Zags were in the Dallas area to play against Tennessee in a scrimmage, sources said.
The move reinforces Yormark’s promises that the Big 12 will be aggressive and “open to business,” and could end up changing the landscape of college basketball.
Sources indicate that Gonzaga has been investigating its conferencing options as it has become one of the premier basketball programs in the country. Both the Pac-12 and the Big East were engaged to Gonzaga, according to sources, but the extent of those talks is uncertain.
Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference, a mid-major conference that she has consistently dominated as it has grown into one of the sport’s top programs. The school has made its discussions with the WCC transparent.
That the Big 12 are targeting Gonzaga as a potential addition to strengthen their basketball comes as no surprise, given that the conference has been considered the top basketball league in the country for the past few seasons. The Big 12 boast the last two men’s basketball national champions — Kansas and Baylor — and were an overtime loss from Texas Tech in 2019 as they had three consecutive NCAA champions.
Including Gonzaga in the Big 12 would be a massive shift in the landscape as it would perpetuate the Big 12’s reputation at the top of the sport. Gonzaga’s men’s basketball program played in the national title game in 2017 and 2021. Gonzaga has been a No. 1 in the NCAA tournament in four of the last five years.
Yormark has been open about the league’s desire to expand. He has spoken openly about adding a fourth time zone and nationally-approved programs. The Big 12 and their television partners ESPN and Fox almost agree on a six-year extension that includes a substantial pay rise. How a potential payout would get to a school with no football is uncertain, but the idea of Gonzaga playing in the basketball league against Kansas, Baylor, BYU and Texas Tech would be appealing to television partners.
The notion of Gonzaga potentially joining the Big 12 was touched on by the conference recently with her television partners in talks about the league’s new television deal. But the potential addition had nothing to do with the Big 12’s final deal.
“It was hinted at,” said one person familiar with the Big 12 deal. “It came about in a quiet way. It’s positive, but it’s not a financial game changer.”