Gonzaga AD reportedly talked to Big 12 boss; Pac-12 war with Big 12 continues

The Pac-12 and Big 12 continue to fight for leverage, money, memberships, and seemingly everything else under the sun in college sports. A new plot twist: They might be fighting over Gonzaga, though the extent of that particular battle is unclear.

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that Gonzaga Athletic Director Chris Standiford talked to Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark while the GU basketball team was in Texas to play Tennessee in a preseason scrimmage.

ESPN college basketball reporter and columnist Dana O’Neil subsequently tweeted confirmation of Thamel’s report from a second source, noting that talks between Gonzaga and the Big 12 are only in the “exploratory” stage. So, it’s not as though a deal is about to be reached. Yet, it’s clearly another statement by the Big 12 about its intentions, which clash with the Pac-12’s best interests. Let’s break down this situation and provide some other notes you need to be aware of:

PROLOGUE: WE DISCUSSED THE PAC-12 ADDING GONZAGA IN EARLY JULY

TUG OF WAR

GONZAGA AND THE BIG EAST

OH REALLY?

FOLLOW-UP

MEDIA RIGHTS VS GONZAGA

If you were to ask, “Is it more important for the Pac-12 to secure a media rights deal first or get Gonzaga in the fold first?”, what is the better answer?

Let’s tackle that one in a few segments below:

GONZAGA TALKING WITH THE BIG 12

The Big 12 just did secure a media rights deal which includes basketball. The Pac-12 hasn’t yet finalized a media rights deal. With Gonzaga clearly exploring options, does that reality — one conference has finalized its media deal, the other has not — mean something?

The question is more interesting than the answer, quite frankly.

It’s a fascinating plot point.

AMAZON

The Pac-12 seems to be very interested in striking a deal with Amazon as part of its new media rights package. Amazon obviously wants some high-end inventory.

Does Gonzaga basketball become part of the Pac-12’s sales pitch to Amazon, and how much might that affect what Amazon and the Pac-12 are both willing — and able — to do?

THE ARIZONA FACTOR

There are so many questions to ask in light of the reality that Gonzaga is exploring multiple power conferences.

One is this: If Gonzaga does move to the Big 12, would that lead the University of Arizona to jump to the Big 12, given the Pac-12’s erosion of its own basketball brand? Arizona might find the lure of Big 12 basketball irresistible if Gonzaga is part of the league.

Remember: Houston, a Final Four team in 2021 and a national title contender this season, is joining the Big 12 next year. The Big 12 is building a bigger hoops presence. Arizona might view Gonzaga as a key puzzle piece.

GEORGE KLIAVKOFF AND GONZAGA

If I am George Kliavkoff, I am more focused on Gonzaga than media rights, though the two elements are definitely linked.

Kliavkoff can obviously make a sales pitch to ESPN, Fox, and Amazon about Gonzaga basketball, but he needs to win Gonzaga’s trust first … or so it would seem.

Kliavkoff needs to map out a vision for Gonzaga in the Pac-12, acccommodating all of the Zags’ sports and making sure a non-football Pac-12 member can fit seamlessly into the conference.

As noted above, landing Gonzaga — for the Big 12 or the Pac-12, either one — might affect how Arizona thinks about its long-term conference home.

SAN DIEGO STATE

San Diego State now becomes an even more urgent piece of the puzzle for Kliavkoff and the Pac-12.

Moving quickly to land the Aztecs might be the sweetener Gonzaga needs to move to the Pac-12 instead of the Big 12. Remember: With UCLA and USC leaving for the Big Ten, the Pac-12 needs a Southern California team and a reason for schools in the Pacific Northwest to come to Southern California for recruiting.

Kliavkoff’s ability to get Gonzaga might hinge on his ability to get the Aztecs on board and convince the Zags about the new-look Pac-12 and what it can offer.

SAN DIEGO STATE FOOTBALL

If San Diego State does join the Pac-12, the league would have 11 football members plus Gonzaga.

This raises some obvious questions.

SHOULD THE PAC-12 SETTLE FOR AN 11-TEAM FOOTBALL CONFERENCE PLUS GONZAGA?

There’s no rule saying that a conference has to have an even number of football-only members. It could just expand through San Diego State and Gonzaga.

On the other hand:

WHAT ABOUT FRESNO STATE?

Maybe having Fresno State as a football and basketball travel partner for San Diego State would make more sense. It’s not an obvious call, but it’s certainly something to consider.

However:

SMU

If the Pac-12 does add San Diego State and brings Gonzaga in for hoops and GU’s non-basketball sports, does this actually make SMU more attractive than Fresno State? Gonzaga would be able to play Pac-12 games in Dallas and therefore have a recruiting angle into the state of Texas. It’s not an absurd, ridiculous notion.

WHAT IF THE PAC-12 AND BIG 12 BOTH FAIL TO GET GONZAGA?

This isn’t football, but with USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten, the Pac-12 really does need a basketball presence to compensate. San Diego State would be good, but Gonzaga would be great. The Big 12 is already loaded in hoops. If both conferences whiff on Gonzaga, that’s more of a loss for the Pac-12 than the Big 12.

PLOT TWIST

We noted above that — according to Gonzaga blogger and podcaster Andy Patton (who also writes for Ducks Wire) — GU is exploring membership in a conference other than the Big 12, Pac-12, and Big East. If Gonzaga does land in another conference, that could create unforeseen plot twists which might bring about different incentives and decisions.

Stay tuned.

ADDED REPORTING

NOTABLE

BYU ANGLE

YOUTUBE SHOW

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire