Big 12 Trying to Woo Gophers Away from Big Ten

Photo: Megan Mendoza – USA TODAY NETWORK

The world of college athletics is changing right before our eyes and the shifts in landscape will continue for the foreseeable future. Schools have already jumped conferences, something we’re sure to see more of. Texas and Oklahoma will become SEC rivals in 2025. USC and UCLA will vacate their PAC-12 membership in 2024 and move into the Big Ten.

So, what shoe drops next? Some expect Oregon and/or Washington to join the PAC-12 exodus. Others wonder what will happen with the ACC rivals and college basketball immortality schools in North Carolina (UNC, Duke).

Big 12 Wants Gophers…

But one move that nobody anticipated, before Charley Walters wrote his bi-weekly Sunday column in the Pioneer Press this weekend, was the Big 12 conference trying to woo the Minnesota Gophers away from the Big Ten. Yet… here we are.

The Big 12 Conference is said to be quietly seeking the Gophers, but Minnesota can’t afford the revenue loss of a new Big Ten Network deal, which, with the expansion of USC and UCLA in two years, could be worth nearly $100 million a year.Charley Walters (Pioneer Press)

The Big 12 is reeling and can’t even guarantee its future in whatever new college sports landscape is ahead of us. So they’re effort to counterpunch, after losing Texas and Oklahoma, shouldn’t be surprising. But, for all of those same reasons, a move to the Big 12 would make ABSOLUTELY zero sense for the University of Minnesota.

No Chance.

As Scooter (Walters) points out, the Big Ten is on the verge of inking a $1+ billion TV contract. The Gophers would turn their back on $100 million per season, in TV revenue alone, if they jumped conferences. It’s been a long time since the University of Minnesota considered themselves a Big Ten powerhouse.

But the University of Minnesota’s status as a founding member of the Big Ten back in 1896 guarantees them all of the same financial benefits as conference powers like Michigan (1896), Wisconsin (1896) and Ohio State (1912). Something that newer schools like Maryland, Nebraska and Rutgers cannot say. Why would the University of Minnesota jump off of the Big Ten gravy train to become the newest member of a lesser conference?

So they have a better opportunity at in-conference athletic success? Given the uncertain state of the Big 12, even that is far from a guarantee. Not to mention how much it would hurt recruiting. We’re talking about a conference that may not exist in a couple of years. Come on…

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan