BRENT STECKER

Is Gonzaga finally moving to a major conference? Big 12 may take Zags

Oct 9, 2023, 11:46 AM | Updated: Oct 18, 2023, 1:02 pm

Gonzaga Zags Mark Few...

Gonzaga coach Mark Few looks on during a Zags game vs. Grand Canyon in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have built themselves into a college basketball powerhouse, but come tournament time every year, there’s a common refrain: They won’t win it all because they haven’t played tough enough competition in conference play.

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Well, what if they did? It appears we’re getting closer to the Zags leaving the West Coast Conference to find out that answer. According to college basketball insider Seth Davis, who reports for CBS Sports and is a senior writer for The Messenger, the Big 12 is pushing to get the Zags to finally join the ranks of a major conference.

Per Davis, multiple sources have told The Messenger that Gonzaga could join the Big 12 as early as next year as the two sides “have resumed top-level discussions about the possibility of the school joining the conference in all sports.”

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is leading a “renewed push” to bring Gonzaga into the conference, Davis reports, presenting his case for the Zags last week in Dallas at the Big 12 meetings. Yormark would like to see Gonzaga join the conference for the 2024-25 season, but that would be a best-case scenario as there is a lot to sort through, Davis wrote. Adding the Zags would give the Big 12 a total of 17 members, and Gonzaga would be the ninth added since this year.

Where Gonzaga would have the biggest impact, of course, is on the hardwood. Not only has the men’s basketball team reached 25 straight NCAA Tournaments, including playing in a pair of national championship games and eight consecutive Sweet 16 appearances, but the women’s basketball team has reached six straight NCAA Tournaments itself and 14 total since 2007. Gonzaga does not have a football program, however, which is likely a factor in why they haven’t been picked up by a major conference before.

The Zags would certainly have some interesting competition in conference play if they move to the Big 12. In men’s hoops, the Spokane school would begin an immediate rivalry with the Arizona Wildcats, who are not only another perennial power but are coached by Tommy Lloyd. That’s notable because Lloyd, a native of Kelso, Wash., was Bulldogs head coach Mark Few’s top assistant for years at Gonzaga before taking the head job in Tempe in 2021. Arizona is set to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big 12 next season along with Arizona State, Utah and Colorado.

Moving to the Big 12 would allow Gonzaga to continue a rivalry with BYU, as the Cougars left the WCC after last season. Other top basketball schools in the conference include Kansas, Houston, TCU, West Virginia and Baylor, the last of which beat the Zags in the 2021 men’s basketball national title game.

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Is Gonzaga finally moving to a major conference? Big 12 may take Zags