Big 12 pipe dream dead, Fresno St. focuses inward at strengthening athletic programs

Fresno State’s tease of Big 12 interest went decidedly nowhere, but it has advanced conversations about improving the university’s athletic standing.

Fresno State did not make the cut in the latest round of conference realignment after months of rumors that the Bulldogs could be headed to the Big 12. 

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said that the conference is done expanding for now, and recent comments from Fresno State President Saul Jimenez-Sandoval show his plan to keep promoting Fresno State to get more national exposure. 


The big picture: In comments to McClatchy, Jimenez-Sandoval said the university’s next steps are to keep the focus on developing a dynamic plan for athletic excellence and facility improvements. 

  • He added that the more the university invests in itself, the greater the opportunities will be for the Central Valley. 
  • A major part of that investment could come in the form of Measure E, a 0.2 percent sales tax that organizers are planning to place on the March 2023 ballot. The initiative would provide $56 million annually over 25 years for academic and athletic facilities. 
  • Jimenez-Sandoval reportedly plans to keep in touch with Big 12 officials, even though the conference has stated that it is done expanding for the moment. 
  • Fresno State’s president also plans to engage with the four remaining Pac-12 schools – Cal, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State – as they either seek to keep the Pac-12 brand together or find another conference to call home. 

The Big 12’s “dream scenario”: In his comments, Jimenez-Sandoval pointed to Fresno State’s media market, continuing the narrative that it stretches from Bakersfield to Sacramento, a combined market that would rank in the top 20 in the nation. 

  • The Pac-12 was never even rumored to be a legitimate option for Fresno State, and the Big 12 was not swayed by the media market argument to make an actual offer. 
  • Yormark said on the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast that adding Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah was the dream scenario that unfolded for the Big 12. He added that he also had conversations with UConn and Gonzaga, but those talks have also ended because more attractive options were on the table. 

What they’re saying: Jimenez-Sandoval said the greatest lesson he learned through discussions with the Big 12 is the need to collectively advocate for Fresno State’s future while keeping a dynamic plan for potential next steps. 

  • “We can’t be idle and complacent and we must come together to make this happen,” Jimenez-Sandoval told McClatchy. “Fresno State has a symbiotic relationship with the region and greater exposure for Fresno State on a national level will bring national attention and pride to our region in unprecedented ways.”
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