Big 12 Expansion: Examining the pros and cons of adding Colorado State

Big 12 logo. Credit: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports

All around the Fort rose such a clatter,

It made some wonder, ‘What was the matter?’

In fact, though, nothing was wrong,

The noise was from excited Ram fans joining in song.

‘CSU to the Big 12’ was their rally cry,

Moving into the Power 5 would be like Christmas in July.”

Christmas in July?

Let’s face it, for Colorado State to get a “call up to the big leagues” would be the biggest game-changer in Colorado sports since the very same university decided to move forward on construction of their new, on-campus, multi-purpose stadium. A move from the Mountain West to the Big 12 would open up the ultimate possibility for CSU, even if it may be a long shot: It would mean the Rams would be able to compete for a National Championship.

And, without a doubt, erecting that superb stadium – which is all the more awe-inspiring every day – has opened the door to CSU graduating to a Power 5 conference.

Like a freshman in college, CSU Athletics’ prerequisite (a new stadium) had to be fulfilled before they could move onto upper division classes (a Power 5 conference). Now that Sonny Lubick Field at the On-Campus Stadium is halfway done, the eyes of the bigger, more-prestigious conferences (namely, the Big 12, who is evaluating candidates currently) are open, too.

As one Big 12 source told Blair Kerkoff of the Kansas City Star, “An official from a Big 12 school told me Colorado State, with a new football stadium in the works, is the best candidate.”

Yes, the new stadium – and everything that comes with it, like a LEED silver rating – is a major “pro” when considering CSU for the Big 12. But, what are some others? And some cons?

Pros

  • Colorado State has focused on winning on the football field as of late, with the hires of Jim McElwain – who helped elevate the program – and then Mike Bobo as a top-notch replacement who’s putting his own stamp on the school and winning his way.
  • Football will always be the most important sport when it comes to evaluating a school for admittance into the Big 12, but CSU also boasts a back-to-back MW champion women’s basketball team, a men’s basketball team which has been competitive and a volleyball team constantly in the Top 25 in the nation.
  • Fort Collins is an amazing place to live and/or visit: This isn’t some biased reporting, folks; everyone from TIME to CNN to Buzzfeed says so.
  • The school has made major efforts to improve the academics side of things as of late. Last year’s $198 million raised was an all-time record for the school. As was the $31.8 million in donations to the athletic department specifically.
  • With the University of Colorado now a half-decade into the Pac 12, Colorado State University’s ability to bring the Denver TV market back to the Big 12 would be a big get for the conference.
  • And, of course, stadium, stadium and more stadium. It will seat over 40,000 Ram fans, feature a state-of-the-art video screen as well as sound system and be LEED certified. This, of course, is the crown jewel which is likely helping CSU stand out.

Cons

  • First and foremost, attendance. Having an average of 24,000 at Hughes Stadium last year for Rams home games was a sad joke. Even less funny were the 30 percent capacity crowds which regularly visited Moby Arena for men’s basketball games. Simply, from an outsider’s perspective, Ram fans aren’t nearly fanatic enough.
  • Winning is incredibly important: Since McElwain was hired in 2012, the football team went 29-23, including 1-2 in bowl games. Yes, the Rams are on the rise, especially when looking at three straight bowl appearances, but it may not be enough at this point in time.
  • Another con is Colorado’s location as it relates to Texas. We’re not as far away as, say, BYU or even Boise State, but Fort Collins isn’t that close to the other schools, either. Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas is the closest Big 12 school at 550 miles away and adding CSU would mean teams in three time zones for the conference.
  • Similarly, it seems the best fit as a “partner” to join Colorado State would be Brigham Young University. BYU is a good fit with CSU since both are in the Mountain Time Zone and the two schools have a longstanding history of being rivals of one another that dates back to before BYU was independent. But, BYU doesn’t play games on Sundays and they also have their own television network; those could be big enough road blocks to stop their entry into the Big 12.

But, what Rams fans must realize is this: No matter how great the pros and how poor the cons weigh out when the Big 12 evaluates their school’s merits, CSU is definitely behind (1) Houston and probably behind (2) Cincinnati, possibly a few more.

This is Texas’ governor yesterday tweeting about Big 12 expansion and the need to include Houston:

Then, the University of Texas’ president Greg Fuentes endorsed Houston, too:

Hey, Colorado State is great. The university itself has blown up (in a good way) over the last decade, with too many new buildings to name here. In fact, there’s so much construction on campus – even without including the stadium – that there’s no wonder why the school’s nickname has become “Construction Site University.” Fort Collins is one of the best places to live in the nation according to a billion different national publications. But, it’s not Texas, it’s podunk Colorado to those proud Lone Star Staters. Texas (most importantly), Baylor, Texas Christian, they have a ton of pull in what the conference does next and they seemingly all want Houston.

CSU could get in, yes, but if the conference doesn’t expand by four teams, the likelihood they’re taken over Houston (especially) and/or paired with Houston as the two new schools, seems quite unlikely indeed.

But, you never know. Sometimes your parents pull together all their extra money and surprise you with something stupendous.

Christmas in July? Ram Nation can only hope.

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