Big 12, Gonzaga leaders meet with league open to expansion, Zags considering power conference move

Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford met with Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark last week at a hotel in Frisco, Texas, while the Bulldogs were in the state to play Tennessee in a preseason scrimmage, sources confirmed to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd and Matt Norlander. The two sides discussed the possibility of Gonzaga joining the conference in the future. ESPN was first to report the meeting between Standiford and Yormark on Wednesday. 

Sources told CBS Sports that Gonzaga has engaged in discussions with multiple leagues throughout the past year — including the Big East — as it explores options for a potential move to a power conference. Gonzaga coach Mark Few is fervently seeking a situation that can put the program in a better spot in the coming years, sources told CBS Sports. Gonzaga has lorded over the WCC for the past two decades, but Few wants the program better positioned whenever he retires. BYU is leaving the WCC for the Big 12 in 2023, and it’s anticipated the WCC will take a step back when that happens.

Yormark has publicly committed to keeping the Big 12 open for business with realignment shaking up the hierarchy of college athletics. With Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the SEC by 2025 and Cincinnati, UCF, BYU and Houston joining the Big 12 in 2023, Yormark has persistently been an aggressor to try to improve the league’s positioning in the marketplace. 

“I’ve telegraphed my intentions,” Yormark said last week at a luncheon. “You know, I decided I want to take a different approach. I’m going to telegraph. I want to be very transparent, open and honest in my desires to go national, to expand.”

Gonzaga has won 10 straight regular-season WCC titles and nine of the last 10 conference tournaments, part of a dominant run in the league that is virtually unheard of. Under Few, the Bulldogs have groomed a national brand as one of the true bluebloods of the sport and a constant contender in the NCAA Tournament. They have twice made the NCAA Tournament final since 2017 but finished as the runner-up both times. Their last title game appearance resulted in a blowout loss to Baylor in 2021. 

Adding Gonzaga to its ranks in basketball would only bolster the Big 12’s reputation as the most challenging conference in college hoops. In eight of the last 10 seasons, the Zags have finished as a top-10 team at, with three of those instances — including each of the last two seasons — finishing at No. 1. In that same timeframe the Big 12 has finished No. 1 in KenPom’s conference ratings, which is schedule-adjusted, and finished No. 2 in the conference ratings two of the other three years. 

Since Few took over the Gonzaga program in 1999, the Bulldogs have accrued a 658-129 record, which includes 21 conference regular-season championships, 18 conference tournament championships and 22 NCAA Tournament appearances. Their 367 wins since 2011 are most among all college hoops teams, besting Kansas (354), Duke (334), Kentucky (330) and Arizona (319), according to College Basketball Reference data.

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