Colorado Could Return to Big 12, and Leave the Pac-12

Colorado Could Return to Big 12, and Leave the Pac-12

Posted on: May 26, 2023, 10:11h. 

Last updated on: May 26, 2023, 10:53h.

Colorado is inching closer and closer to leaving the Pac-12 conference and returning to the Big 12.

Deion Sanders Colorado head coach
Colorado football head coach Deion Sanders surveys the field during a spring practice game at Folsom Field in Boulder. (Image: AP)

The Big 12 is seeking to expand its conference after football powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma agreed to join the SEC in 2024. The Big 12 invited four new schools to join the conference in 2023, yet they’re still seeking further expansion.

The Pac-12 has been in disarray since USC and UCLA agreed to leave the West Coast-based conference in favor of the Big Ten.

The Pac-12 is desperate to find replacements after losing their two Los Angeles-based universities. San Diego State is the popular candidate to replace the loss of USC and UCLA. San Diego State reached the 2023 “March Madness” Final Four and appeared in the 2023 men’s college basketball championship game.

Big 12 Aggressively Expanding

After losing Oklahoma and Texas, the Big 12 added four schools. Houston, UCF, Cincinnati, and BYU will join the Big 12 at the start of the 2023 football season. The Big 12 expanded to 16 schools, which seems to be the current magic number in football-dominated conferences.

The SEC and Big Ten tipped the balance of power among the Power Five conferences when they expanded to 16 schools. The Big 12 doesn’t want to stop at 16, though, and they’re eyeing a megaconference that’s 18 deep.

The Big 12 explored the inclusion of UNLV, which are currently in the Mountain West. By adding UNLV, the Big 12 would have a presence in Las Vegas.

UConn has also drawn interest from the Big 12, mainly because of their basketball prowess after winning the 2023 March Madness men’s college basketball championship.

In March, the Big 12 targeted schools from the “four corners” states to join their conference, which includes Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah. Those four schools are members of the Pac-12.

A Big 12 source told me last week that Colorado is ready to commit to joining the Big 12 ‘soon,’” reported Berry Tramel from The Oklahoman.

Colorado is a former denizen of the Big 12, but left the conference in 2011 when the Pac-10 expanded and rebranded as the Pac-12.

Colorado joined the informally-named Big Seven in 1947 before the conference added an eighth team in 1964. For three decades, the Big Eight was a major presence in college football and basketball. In 1994, the Big Eight joined forces with four Southwest Conference teams to create the Big 12.

Nostalgic college football fans yearn for the halcyon days of the Big Eight, when Colorado and Nebraska met in their annual gridiron battle on the day after Thanksgiving in a nationally televised game.

Prime Time Colorado Football

It’s been 33 years since Colorado defeated Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl to claim the 1990 national championship. For the last two decades, the Colorado Buffaloes let down students and alumni with lackluster football teams.

Colorado made only seven bowl appearances since 2001, and they last won a bowl game in 2004. Not counting the pandemic-shortened season of 2020, Colorado posted just one winning season since 2006.

Colorado fired head coach Karl Dorrell last October after an 0-5 start. The Buffs finished in last place in the Pac-12 with a 1-8 record. During the 2022 season, Colorado finished with a 1-11 overall record.

Colorado hired Deion Sanders as their new head coach in December. His hiring fired up the fan base, and Colorado sold out their season ticket allotment for the first time since 1996. Single-game tickets went on sale this week, and Colorado set a new record with 11,273 tickets sold on Wednesday.

Colorado is still a long shot to win the national championship, but their odds recently improved. According to DraftKings’ futures board, Colorado is +40000 odds to win the College Football Playoff National Championship. Before Sanders agreed to coach the team, Colorado was +100000 odds.

Sanders is a former dual-sport athlete who logged 14 seasons in the NFL and bounced around MLB for nine seasons.

Sanders joined Jackson State as their head coach in 2020 in an attempt to elevate the profile of HBCU programs. Sanders didn’t have any head coaching experience, so the hiring seemed like a publicity stunt.

Sanders proved everyone wrong when he went 27-6 during his three-season stint at Jackson State. Under Sanders the last two seasons, Jackson State posted a perfect 8-0 conference record in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Sanders led Jackson State to a 12-1 record in 2022.

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