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Pac-12 collapse: Stanford’s best and worst case realignment scenarios

We take a look at what Stanford’s next move should be.

BYU v Stanford Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

The Pac-12 has completely collapsed in the craze of recent conference realignment. With USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon headed to the Big Ten and Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah moving to the Big 12, just four schools remain in what will soon cease to be a Power Five conference.

Washington State, Oregon State, Cal, and Stanford are now left to scramble for a solution. Here, we’ll take a look at the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Stanford Cardinal.

Best case scenario

Stanford football has to take the backseat in a best-case scenario. While the football program hasn’t made much of a splash in recent seasons, Stanford’s other sports have been winning championships and making a major name for themselves on the national stage. They are the No. 1 school in NCAA history for total championships won across all sports. Women’s golf, men’s golf, men’s gymnastics, women’s gymnastics, women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and women’s swimming, and women’s soccer have all won national titles in the last five years.

So what is there to do? The best case scenario for Stanford at this point would be an offer to join the Big Ten conference. The TV money from football would be a great perk, and the Big Ten offers competitive rivals in several of the sports that Stanford excels at. Women’s volleyball, for instance, is dominated by the Big Ten and the California schools. With USC and UCLA joining the conference, geographic considerations are mostly off the table. It would be a net positive for non-football sports to continue to face former Pac-12 schools that are within their geographical region.

However, whether the Big Ten will offer a spot or expand to 20 teams has yet to be seen.

Worst case scenario

The worst-case scenario for Stanford would honestly be independence. Those who compare it to Notre Dame in terms of academics and argue that Stanford could successfully negotiate independence miss a major part of the Fighting Irish’s status: their ongoing lucrative NBC contract. Stanford’s market is significantly smaller than ND’s, and the football money that would be available for home games would not be able to support their many successful teams.

Even if football went independent, Stanford would still need to find a conference for their non-football sports. In this case, that would probably be the Mountain West. At that point, your most competitive teams are now playing outside of a power conference, and your football team isn’t bringing in the money needed to support itself.