Oklahoma State football: How ‘Pac-20’ could work for the Cowboys

Oklahoma State football fans should breathe a sigh of relief with today’s news about scheduled meetings between the Big 12 and Pac-12 Conferences concerning a potential merger, according to The Athletic.

It’s still early, but with the surprising developments about OU and Texas leaving the conference for the SEC, the Big 12 as a whole could do a lot worse than to end up merging with college football’s western-most power conference.

Oklahoma State football fans should wholeheartedly cheer for a Pac-12 and Big 12 merger, considering the alternatives facing the Cowboys.

If the Pac-12 is willing to merge with the remnants of the post-Sooner-and-Longhorn Big 12 schools, it’s a chance that OSU and the other seven schools should jump on immediately.

In June, I pointed out the possible benefits to some kind of merger between the Big 12 and Pac-12 simply from a competitive standpoint. The Pac-12 hasn’t fielded a team in the national semifinals, the College Football Playoff, since 2016. While the Sooners have advanced four times to the CFP, they’ve come up empty-handed every year.

Increased exposure for some the mid-tier and top schools in both leagues is an added benefit, and the increased size of media markets and potential TV revenue has become a driving factor in this newest round college football realignment.

As also noted earlier in Pokes Post, OSU has fared well against the Pac-12 — head coach Mike Gundy is 8-2 against the league and has only lost once in eight such games since 2010. No matter the exact setup, the Cowboys would figure to be immediate contenders on the football field in this proposed new conference.

Among Pac-12 schools, only Stanford (27) and Oregon (25) have won more games against ranked opponents in the last decade than OSU (24). The Cowboys’ ranked wins total is better than USC (17), Arizona State (17), and UCLA (15).

Yes, the division of schools into divisions or scheduling pods would be difficult to implement. The future is less clear, too, about the non-revenue sports. For all athletic programs involved, travel costs and time would increase drastically — for example, would Mike Boynton and the OSU men’s basketball team start flying to Thursday night games in Pullman, Wash. or Corvallis, Ore. regularly?

Adding the Big 12’s name on the football field to the prestige of programs like USC, Oregon, and Washington is a no-brainer. These three programs have a rich history of college football success and are capable of drawing the top high school talent in the nation. With a merged league retaining its ‘power conference’ or ‘Autonomy Four’ status, the programs competing for conference titles would not be put at a disadvantage compared to the Big Ten, the ACC, and the expanding SEC.

Also, the nomenclature and branding may matter when more definitive agreements happen, but the name should for now be the “Pac-20.” At this point, the Pac-12 is simply contributing more schools this hypothetical mix and deserves to name the new alliance. Of course, the “Big 20” doesn’t sound too bad, either.

 

Here are two possible ways to organize the potential merged conferences:

 

Divisions 

(10 teams each)

West Division – Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, California, USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona

East Division – Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor

 

Pods 

(four teams each)

Northwest – Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State

California – Stanford, California, USC, UCLA

Southwest – Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado

Lone Star – Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Midwest – Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, West Virginia