Having lived in Tucson for nearly 4 years and having served as the Pac-12 features writer and columnist for the Arizona Daily Star during that time period, I’m confident in this pecking order among Arizona Wildcats fans.

  1. Current members of the Arizona men’s basketball program
  2. Future members of the the Arizona men’s basketball program
  3. Eegee’s
  4. Former members of the Arizona men’s basketball program
  5. Potential members of the Arizona men’s basketball program
  6. Whatever Scooby Wright is doing
  7. Potential members of the Arizona football program
  8. Future members of the Arizona football program
  9. Current members of the Arizona football program
  10. Former members of the Arizona football program other than Scooby Wright

Put it this way: A good feature on Parker Jackson-Cartwright, now, would get as much play as a good feature on Jayden de Laura, now.

And for good reason.

The imbalance among the school’s two flagship sports is among the greatest in the country. If Arizona men’s basketball is Brad Pitt, Arizona football is an extra from In The Army Now. If Zona Zoo is nirvana, Arizona Stadium is Nickelback. There’s Lute and Bobbi and Miles and Bibby and T.J. to A.G. for an alley-oop vs. … Gronk?

So as the Wildcats appear poised to bolt to the Big 12 to join Colorado, with Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger reporting that league executives approved their application on Thursday, let us focus not on what Arizona may be leaving, but what Arizona may be joining.

Nothing short of the best basketball conference in the country.


CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd summed it up in one post.

It’s enough to make your hair stand up.

Tommy Lloyd and the Wildcats heading into Phog Allen Fieldhouse in early March for a potential Final Four preview? Houston heading to McKale Center for a 2022 Sweet 16 rematch?

That sure beats Arizona vs. Oregon State.

Does it beat Arizona vs. UCLA? Maybe not. But that’s no longer on the table, and that is reason enough for the Wildcats to head east. It’s not just that the Big 12 media rights package could dwarf the Pac-12’s would-be streaming-centric revenue with Apple TV+. It’s not just the potential to join a marginally better football conference, which the Big 12 is, particularly with the recent addition of the likes of Cincinnati, Houston, BYU and UCF.

It’s the chance to jump from a sinking basketball conference to one that dominates the RPI rankings and television ratings.

Since the 2019-20 season, just three Pac-12 teams have won 90-plus games: UCLA and Arizona, with 99, and USC, with 95. Just two more have won 80-plus: Oregon, which may also be Big Ten-bound along the Bruins and Trojans, with 86 and Colorado with 83.

That’s right: Aside from Oregon, the 4 top programs in the conference in recent years — and in UCLA and Arizona’s case, ever — are leaving the Pac-12.

This was the Conference of Champions we’re talking about. The home of John Wooden and Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton and Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott, Gary Payton and Jason Kidd and so many more. Sure, maybe not a single national title in a quarter century (the Big 12 has 3 since then), but come on! UCLA! USC! Gone!

Meanwhile the Big 12 has been the best conference RPI in 7 of the last 10 years. And it’s only going to get better, as commissioner Brett Yormark has singled out men’s college basketball as a major growth category in the coming media rights packages over the ensuing years. Does that mean UConn? Gonzaga? It only means good things for the Big 12.

If you’re Arizona, and you’ve got the chance to own west coast recruiting compared to your Midwest- and East coast-based brethren, you pack your bags as soon as possible.


The fact that it apparently took Arizona president Robert C. Robbins until this week to begrudgingly come to realize that the Pac-12 had dug itself into a hole from which it would be nearly impossible to dig out is a testament to his loyalty to the tenuous union that was the Pac-9 and to Territorial Cup partner Arizona State.

As ASU president Michael Crow reportedly dithers on the decision to also join Arizona — perhaps moving so begrudgingly because he was one of a handful of Pac-12 powers to hire Larry Scott, whose bold and ultimately misguided vision Crow completely bought into — the Wildcats appear poised to be forging ahead.

This comes just over a week after Robbins told the Athletic’s Max Olson that he was confident that the 10 remaining Pac-12 programs would stick together, just two days before Colorado announced its decision to return to the Big 12.

In just over a week, Robbins appears to be singing a much different tune.

The Wildcats are on the verge of a nearly $32 million annual payday (with significant additional NCAA Tournament bucks) plus a soft landing for a football program that can now bolster its ties to Texas and the south. Jedd Fisch has to be smiling.

But forget all that.

Arizona vs. Kansas is inching closer to becoming a reality. Tommy Lloyd must be doing backflips.

For the Wildcats, it’s a slam dunk.