With rumors swirling that the Big 12 may now try to add four members from the gutted Pac-12, don’t assume that Colorado football would be a good fit.
Ever since the bombshell announcement came that confirmed USC and UCLA will leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, gutting the former and giving college football a presumed “Power Two” hierarchy, most pundits have looked at the Big 12 favorably in terms of future growth and expansion.
The feeling is a lot different than this time last year when Texas and Oklahoma announced their intentions of moving to the SEC and leaving the Big 12 with eight teams who could get scooped up by other leagues.
Instead, it’s the Pac-12 that is reeling, having been the weakest Power Five conference for years in terms of recruiting, exposure, wins on the field, and success in the College Football Playoff — and now is suddenly without two of its strongest brands and its two Los Angeles-based schools.
It doesn’t make any sense geographically for UCLA and USC to engage in annual slugfests with the Purdue Boilermakers or the Michigan State Spartans, but it will supposedly drive up the ‘value’ or ‘brand’ of the Big Ten, and that’s where college football is in the 2020s.
With the Big 12 now operating from a relative position of strength compared to the Pac-12, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported on July 5 that the Big 12 is in ‘deep discussions’ to specifically add four, and maybe six, schools: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah.
So, Big 12 fans, are you really that excited about reuniting with Colorado?
It’s much easier to pick out advantages to adding the three other schools mentioned on this list, rather than the Big 12 re-adding Colorado. Remember that the Buffaloes were members of the Big 12 from 1948 to 2010, even when it was previously known as the Big 7 and the Big 8 for many decades.
Arizona has a marquee men’s basketball program that routinely reaches the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 and churns out NBA-caliber stars. On the gridiron, spare your Rich Rodriguez jokes: the Wildcats have produced several eight-win squads recently, not including the 2014 squad that was 10-2 before losing to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game and Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The University of Arizona is based in Tucson, a metro area of nearly a million in the southern part of the state.
Arizona State, located in Tempe, is next to Phoenix, which comprises of nearly five million people and is one of the nation’s 10 largest metro areas. The Sun Devils have put together three 10-win seasons since 2007 and have put talent in the NFL, including recent first-round wide receivers in the NFL Draft like the 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk and the Patriots’ N’Keal Harry (now with the Bears).
Utah has been the most successful football program of any of these potential new Big 12 members. The Utes finished 10-4 last year after winning the Pac-12 championship and appearing in the Rose Bowl (a loss to Ohio State). Utah has reached the AP Top 25 in each of the past eight seasons, and the school finished with the No. 2 overall ranking in 2008 following an undefeated 13-0 season and a Sugar Bowl win as then-members of the Mountain West.
That leaves Colorado. The Buffaloes have had just two winning seasons since 2006, over which time period the team has had five different head coaches. In their last five seasons as Big 12 members from 2006 to 2010, the Buffaloes compiled a paltry 12-30 record against conference foes.
Since 2011, in its first year in the Pac-12, Colorado has the worst in-conference record (26-70) of all 12 schools. Colorado is tied with Oregon State for the worst overall record (47 wins, 83 losses) among all Pac-12 schools since joining the conference.
Over the past decade, Colorado has an equally unimpressive record in non-conference competition, which includes losses to Minnesota, Air Force, Hawaii, Fresno State, and FCS member Sacramento State.
The men’s basketball program is average at best, reaching a handful of NCAA Tournaments in the past decade but never advancing past the second round.
If you’re the Big 12 Conference, sure, add Colorado if you want to try to revive the 1990s memories of Rick McCartney leading the Buffaloes to Top 10 rankings as members of the Big 8. Maybe you’re adding a geographical ‘bridge’ for soon-to-join BYU and potentially for Utah. Perhaps you see something in adding the elusive media market of Denver.
Ralphie the Buffalo is a fun mascot to add back to the conference, sure. Maybe there’s just a compelling need to have an even number of teams.
But don’t delude yourselves into thinking that the Buffaloes bring any current value on the football field. Consider looking past the program that has had one bowl win since 1999 and look elsewhere, either to Boise State or Memphis, to add that 16th school.