I touched on this last year here, where I laid out six reasons why the Pac-10 would not expand just willy nilly and grab Boise State and Utah.
Apparently, the new Pac-10 commish is seriously considering expanding, which is fine, but people need to understand that the Pac-10 is HEAVILY research-oriented and they are a major competitor in most sports, so several things must be factored into any school to be considered for expansion.
- Academics/research – Almost every school has either a major medical facility or research facility, and every school ranks in the top 100 in the world for academics. In the latest World University Rankings, Stanford is #3, California-Berkeley is #4, Washington is #6, UCLA is #17, Arizona is #28, USC is #32, ASU is #60, Oregon State is #72, Oregon is #82, and Washington State is #88.
- Presence – Every school is a major presence in their geographical area. There are no “tiny” schools in the Pac-10.
- Competition – The Pac-10 is the “Conference of Champions” for a reason: the number of championships won by the members of this conference FAR outnumber the total by any other conference. As such, members must have a tradition of competing hard and winning.
- Rivalries – Every school has a natural rival that also happens to be geographically “close” to each other. The farthest “rival” schools from each other are Washington (Seattle) and Washington State (Pullman), which are 5 hrs away by car.
So, knowing these are major criteria for any school to join the Pac-10, let’s go through some of the schools being touted by members of the media. The World University Rankings provides good insight on where these schools are ranked in relation to the rest of the world – more than 15000 universities across the globe are ranked in this research. Hence, the schools are sorted by World University Ranking.
- University of Colorado (Boulder, CO) – Good research school, biggest presence in Colorado, however somewhat irrelevant lately in the Big 12 conference. Ranked #45 in WUR. Enrollment is over 30,000 students.
- University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT) – Major medical facility, major presence only overshadowed by BYU, major competitor in the Mountain West Conference. Location in large market. Ranked #48 in the World University Rankings. Enrollment is over 26,700 students.
- University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM) – Plays in MWC, but is inconsistent in its competitiveness in men’s sports – the women, however, are rolling over their competition. Located in largest city in NM, also a known travel destination. Ranked #69 in WUR. Enrollment is over 24,000 students.
- BYU (Provo, UT) – Biggest presence in Utah, major competitor in MWC. Location in smaller market. Ranked #84 in the World University Rankings (just ahead of Washington State). However, does not play any sports on Sundays, which is a major drawback to Pac-10 competition, and it has a dearth of graduate programs, also a turn-off for the Pac-10. Enrollment is over 34,000 students.
- Colorado State University (Ft. Collins, CO) – Second biggest presence in Colorado behind UC, competitive member of MWC. Academia is still decent (#113 in WUR). Enrollment is over 26,000 students.
- Utah State University (Logan, UT) – Plays in the WAC, but lately has been irrelevant. Located in very small market. Academics are better than half of the other schools being considered (#162 in WUR). Enrollment is just shy of 24,000 students.
- San Diego State (San Diego, CA) – Competitor in MWC in many sports outside of football. Located in large market and travel destination. Ranked #233 in WUR. Enrollment is over 34,500 students.
- New Mexico State University (Las Cruces, NM) – Competitor in the WAC. Located in small market. Academics are just ok (#276 in WUR). Enrollment is over 17,000 students. Second smallest school in consideration.
- San Jose State (San Jose, CA) – Competitor in the WAC. Located in close proximity to Stanford, making it easy to reach. Part of the Cal State University system. Ranked #304 in WUR. Enrollment is over 32,000 students.
- University of Wyoming (Laramie, WY) – Lately become more of a competitor in the MWC. Located in very small market. Academia is lacking (#374 in WUR). Enrollment is just under 14,000 students, making it the smallest school in consideration.
- UNLV (Las Vegas, NV) – Competitor in MWC in many sports outside of football. Biggest presence in Nevada, location is well-known. Academics are not up to Pac-10 standards (#388 in WUR). Enrollment is over 31,000 students.
- Boise State University (Boise, ID) – Lately has owned the WAC in football, but that’s pretty much it. Biggest presence in Idaho, however that’s not saying much. Academics are not up to Pac-10 standards (#491 in WUR). Enrollment is just under 20,000 students.
- Fresno State University (Fresno, CA) – Competitor in the WAC. Part of the Cal State University system. Located in small market. Academics are not up to Pac-10 standards (#801 in WUR). Enrollment is over 22,000 students.
- University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu, HI) – Competitor in WAC. Located in supremely desired location – imagine what that does for Pac-10 recruiting (“hey, you can play for us AND you’ll get to go to Hawaii twice in your four years here”). Academics lag behind all other schools in consideration (#824 in WUR). Enrollment is over 20,000 students.
Now, just for grins I’m throwing in two schools:
- Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ) – Small market, currently does not play Division IA in football, but does in everything else. Member of Big Sky conference. Academics are ok (#302 in WUR). Enrollment is just under 19,000 students.
- University of San Diego (San Diego, CA) – Large market, competes in Division I for all sports except football. Member of Pioneer Football League for Division IAA. Academics are behind most other schools listed above (#747 in WUR), and enrollment is just a tad above 7,500 students – but that’s because it’s a private school.
Based on the information above, if I went solely on academia, then obviously my choices should be two of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, BYU, or Colorado State. However, something else to consider is how the schools fare in athletics other than football. San Diego State is already an associate member of the Pac-10, so they automatically should be considered for expansion.
Hence, a Utah and San Diego State pairing would not be out of the question, though having those two play on rivalry weekend would be stretching a bit.
Geographically, SDSU and San Diego would make a perfect pair, except that USD doesn’t compete in Division IA football (stadium size is too small – 6000 seats), and USD’s research ranking is troubling.
SDSU and UNLV would make another “good” pair, as they are 5hr away by car – the same distance as Washington and WSU – but UNLV’s academic ranking is a 300 point drop from the rest of the Pac-10.
Utah and BYU would seem to be a marriage made in heaven, except BYU doesn’t play on Sundays, which becomes a problem for the other members of the Pac-10 who DO play on Sundays. And BYU isn’t all that competitive outside of football and maybe basketball or softball. And let’s not forget that BYU is distinctly lacking graduate programs, a big no-no when dealing with research universities.
Colorado/CSU would also seem to be a good match, but would Colorado want to leave the Big 12? Perhaps if they could guarantee one non-conference game a year against Nebraska. And I’m sure that CSU would jump from the MWC for the Pac-10 in a heartbeat – however, CSU probably wouldn’t get an invite without Colorado.
Utah/Colorado would be really good – 8hr drives not withstanding. This is probably the best pairing period.
Utah/Utah State is also not out of the question as they fit the presence and geographic criteria, and USU’s academia still is in the top 200 in the world. However, Utah State’s small market is very concerning, and like CSU, they probably wouldn’t get an invite on their own.
New Mexico/NMSU would be good geographically, but that also means the Pac-10 would have to take on a small school and weak academia (NMSU) and a low-key competitive-wise school (UNM). Granted, Stanford is also a small school (enrollment just under 15,000), but there’s a huge difference between Stanford and NMSU.
New Mexico/Colorado would be a good fit academically, and it’s actually a slightly shorter drive at 7.5 hrs, but again the inconsistent competitiveness of UNM is troubling.
New Mexico/NAU would be a surprise, though the distance between the schools isn’t all that far. But NAU’s small stadium and school size becomes an issue.
We know that the Pac-10 will not just add one school if it finally does choose to expand. And having an expansion helps other schools in the Pac-10 so they can round out football schedules (read: ASU) with Division IA teams.
I’m pretty sure that a BYU/UNLV pairing would probably not be highly thought of – complete polar opposite agendas there 🙂
As it is, BYU joining the Pac-10 is already under assault from Cal and Stanford – both far left-wing schools to begin with. Since any expansion requires an unanimous vote on schools to join, I believe that Cal’s opposition (Stanford notwithstanding) effectively kills any hope for BYU to join the Pac-10.
I think the biggest knock on one of the other teams, Colorado, is that they pretty much are a football school and really nothing else – there’s nothing really to gain from moving from the Big 12 (a BCS conference) to the Pac-10 (another BCS conference). Also, Colorado does not compete in several other sports that the rest of the Pac-10 does (swimming, baseball). However, there’s an outside chance that a CU-CSU pairing in the Pac-10 might pique their interest.
Thus, the best scenarios range from competitiveness in athletics to high academia to geographic location to just plain ol’ TV markets (in no particular order):
- Utah / San Diego State
- San Diego State / UNLV
- Utah / UNLV
- Utah / Utah State
- Colorado / Colorado State
- San Diego State / University of Hawaii at Manoa
- New Mexico / UNLV
- San Jose State / Fresno State
[2/11 UPDATE: The Big Ten has opened discussions with Texas to jump from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. If that happens, a Colorado jump from the Big 12 to the Pac-10 suddenly becomes a LOT more likely. If that is the case, look for a Utah/Colorado pairing to take place.]
The appeal of any scenario involving Utah is probably first and foremost in the new commish’s mind. And also the lure of the San Diego market is also very appealing. Like I mentioned above, a Utah/SDSU pairing would be very appealing for most everything except a geographic rivalry game – then again, all those Utah fans would probably jump at the chance to fly to San Diego every other year in late November.