Big 12 Sports: Now is the perfect time to add Colorado to the conference

BOULDER, COLORADO - APRIL 22: Head coach Deion Sanders of the Colorado Buffaloes watches as his team warms up prior to their spring game at Folsom Field on April 22, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
BOULDER, COLORADO - APRIL 22: Head coach Deion Sanders of the Colorado Buffaloes watches as his team warms up prior to their spring game at Folsom Field on April 22, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

There was an era when baseball was the national pastime during the summer months.  However, in today’s sports landscape, NCAA conference realignment is as passionately reported on and followed by fans as just about anything else on the sports landscape during the months of June, July, and August.  Of course, the Big 12 has been at the center of the realignment chaos since it resurfaced in the 2010s and now, it is being reported that the conference is in serious discussions with a school that bolted the league over a decade ago, Colorado.

Prior to this year, the thought of bringing the Buffalos back to the Big 12 didn’t move the needle much in any sport.  In fact, as a resident of The Centennial State, I can attest that interest in CU athletics was at an all-time low as, despite living only an hour from the CU campus, I have gone most fall weekends without ever knowing whether the Buffs won or not.

That has changed now thanks to the hiring of NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as the new head coach in Boulder.  Now, there is substantial buzz about Colorado, not only in the Denver area but around the nation as college fans everywhere are fascinated by this outside-the-box hire, one which has already shaken up the world of college football given the massive turnover Sanders has brought to his roster in an attempt to essentially replace around 75% of his players through the portal in one offseason.

Therefore, if there ever was a time to bring Colorado back into the Big 12 family, it would be now.  That brand is as hot as it has been since it won the 1990 national title.  For instance, just a few weeks ago, Colorado sold out its spring game, a scrimmage that was carried live on ESPN and which brought reporters from across the nation to the base of the Rockies.

What’s more, we already know that Sanders’ Colorado debut, which will take place against TCU in Fort Worth, will be nationally broadcast on FOX.  That’s unheard of for a program that went 1-11 the previous season.

It’s a sign that Colorado now has drawing power in the world of television ratings and as long as Sanders is orchestrating a three-ringed circus in Boulder, where there are plenty of potential sideshow acts just wandering around the Pearl Street Mall, people are going to tune in by the millions to see how this experiment plays out.

Therefore, never has CU brought more to the table in terms of potential media rights value.  That type of value is something that the Big 12 is struggling to replace with the losses of Texas and Oklahoma next summer.

Sure, adding BYU, a religious school with a large and passionate national fanbase is a nice step but the likes of Houston, Central Florida, and Cincinnati aren’t going to bring the numbers of eyeballs to the league that Texas and OU have for the entirety of the Big 12’s existence. However, Deion Sanders just might.

Let’s say that Sanders is able to turn Colorado back into a national brand.  That would mean that television executives would be fighting tooth and nail for an opportunity to broadcast his games and that could be worth tens of millions to a conference such as the Big 12.

Also, with Colorado residing in the Mountain time zone, the Buffs (along with BYU) would give the Big 12 desirable schools to fill the Saturday night timeslots that TV networks highly value.  Imagine being able to go to media partners and sell a Colorado or BYU game for those slots instead of a tickle fight featuring Cal or Oregon State, which would be what the PAC 12 would have to offer up as a counter, especially if Washington and Oregon leave that conference high and dry.

There seems to be a ton of smoke surrounding a potential Big 12 reunion with the Buffs.  Just yesterday, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd published an article detailing talks between the two entities.  Interestingly, Dodd suggests that Sanders might have the most pull in this decision.

"“Colorado and the Big 12 have met face-to-face while involved in consistent talks over a period several months, according to multiple sources” Dodd writes. “It was made clear that a move to the Big 12 would not be made without the support of football coach Deion Sanders.”"

Don’t forget that Sanders has deep ties to the Big 12’s home base, Texas, especially the Dallas area where he was once a star for the Dallas Cowboys and where he later operated a controversial private school, an institution where he also coached football.  Of course, his name recognition opens doors across the nation but for Sanders to be able to sell recruits in the Lone Star State on the idea of living in the Rocky Mountains but playing several games a year in Texas and Oklahoma would be a massive advantage for him.

The payout for the Big 12 could be huge as well.  Having Colorado and Deion Sanders as part of the package to sell to media rights bidders, especially given that population of the front range of Colorado (along I-25 from Colorado Springs to the Wyoming border) is nearing five million people and that number is growing almost as fast as any market in the nation.

There’s no way to know if Sanders’ time at CU will be the rousing success that many people assume it will be.  But that doesn’t matter.  Regardless of if he wins big or if he flames out in spectacular fashion (which is my prediction), he will be must-see television, and for whichever conference his school resides in, that will be a potentially huge bargaining chip.  So it would make sense for the Big 12, a league that is in desperate search of its own aces to play, to do everything possible to bring Colorado back into the fold.