The University of Colorado Boulder is set to be the newest addition to the Big 12 conference in 2024.
The Big 12 has been the most active conference as far as turnover goes from the Power 5 conferences. On July 1, the conference officially welcomed UCF, BYU, Cincinnati, and Houston to the league. After this upcoming season, they will lose Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC.
Colorado was apart of the original Big 12 created back in 1994, but left for the PAC-12 in June of 2010. With the return of the Buffs, Brandon and I discuss what it means for the league and UCF. Here are some of my takeaways.
1) Momentum and Spotlight
Led by head coach and former NFL Superstar Deion "Coach Prime" Sanders, this Colorado team has a ton of eyes on them. Despite only two winning seasons over the last ten years, Coach Prime and the Buffs quickly became one of the most talked about teams in the country after his hiring on Dec. 4. of 2022.
Coach Prime previously coached three seasons at Jackson State University where he brought home back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships. Sanders already was a popular topic on social media for his high-energy and confidence on and off the field, but when he first addressed his new Buffs squad, he painted a picture-clear image to the former players: Transfer or don't play.
The Buffs have brought in 35 new players since that day in December. Harsh, but possibly fair due to the 1-11 record last season, opposed to Prime's 27-5 record over the previous three seasons. Everyone, at every level of college football, is going to be looking out to see if Sanders can put his money where his mouth is.
2) Ca-Ching... A Lot of Money for Colorado
The PAC-12 is closing to the end of their media rights deal with ESPN and Fox Sports. The Big 12, signed a new media deal last season that will run through the 2030-2031 season, reportedly dishing out $32 million annually to each university. Reports are emerging that the new PAC-12 deal will pay their schools about $12 million less. Part of this is due to the jump in time zones. Most people in the U.S. operate on Eastern Standard Time, making it difficult for matchups between two west coast teams to be scheduled for a 7 p.m. EST. With Colorado joining the Big 12, it opens the door for the Buffs to play in more prime time matchups in the Eastern Time Zone, leading to more money on TV deals, and more eyes on your university, ultimately leading to more publicity. Which if you don't know how this goes, publicity also leads to money more times than not.
Plus, Colorado joining the Big 12 can have a positive impact on the conference as well. According to the on3.com NIL rankings, the Big 12 just added two of the top 10 athletes in the country with the most NIL benefits. Cornerback Travis Hunter was the top prospect from the class of 2023 according to 247 Sports whose NIL projection is $1.5 million. On top of that, starting quarterback and son of Coach Prime Shedeur Sanders is also on that short list with the projection of $1.3 million.
3) More to Come
The demise of the PAC-12 that we have known for the last 10 or so years is coming slowly for surely. It began when USC and UCLA both announced they will be leaving the conference to join the BIG TEN at the beginning of the 2024 season. Now with Buffalo gone, it is expected that the remaining power conferences (Big 12, BIG TEN, SEC, ACC) will begin to try to pull in these west coast schools. The SEC is adding Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 after this season, giving the Big 12 room to add any combination of Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Utah, or Washington. Rumors have already began to swirl that Arizona and Utah are at the top of the Big 12 wish list, but nothing is confirmed.
4) Lastly, and Least serious, Competition for UCF basketball
Everyone projects that UCF men's and women's basketball is going to be in for a rude awakening entering the gauntlet that is the Big 12. Both teams finished under .500 in conference playa nd failed to advance to the March Madness tournaments. The Big 12 have produced a number of national champions in both sports throughout the years, but Colorado has not. Over the last ten seasons, Colorado has only made the NCAA March Madness tournament twice, along with four NIT appearances. Still better than UCF over that stretch, but not quite to the level of the Big 12.
To recap, this move was ultimately about the money flowing through the athletic program, football in particular. For more of a breakdown of Brandon and I' thoughts check out the podcast below.