I feel like I should get a merit badge or something for reading that.Sort of.
Hear me out on this one. There's a method to my madness. (WARNING: Long post coming.)
Pull out the elite programs, UT and OU, because they're going to draw a big number from their local market along with their megaregion and national eyes. Those schools are among a group of unicorns that everyone is chasing. NU is pretty much the same, just with a much smaller population within its local sphere of influence, so also pull them out. Besides, they're part of a CU rivalry that would have huge value to the conference as an event - so that separates them for extra value to the Pac-12. With UT + OU as a package, they become extra valuable because it would bring a rivalry game that's going to draw a top tv rating every year nationally for the weekend it's on as an event.
So that leaves us with programs like KU, KSU, ISU, Mizzou, OSU, TTU, TCU, Baylor and maybe UH.
What I'm looking at is the likelihood of a program's games to create an event -- local level, megaregion level or national level.
Those are modified by the populations contained in the local level and mega region in which the school's located.
Before I go on, here's the megaregion map below:
The Pac-12 currently controls 5 of the emerging megaregions: Cascadia, Northern California, Southern California, Arizona Sun Corridor and Front Range.
Here's my theory on how we should start valuing different football programs for the Pac-12 or other conferences:
The strength of Pac-12's influence is compromised within its megaregions, and as a conference whole, by the large amount of unaffiliated open space between its megaregions and the fact that the major metros on the edges of its controlled megaregions is often the home of a G5 program that has a significant local following (distance and disruption between or within megaregions dilutes fan passion is a big part of my theory). How does the Arizona Sun Corridor sphere of influence overlap and tie together with the Front Range sphere of influence if New Mexico (or maybe Texas Tech) isn't part of the Pac-12? Without that, the connection and the passions that come with that are diluted. Same with Southern California having the population centers on the edges of its megaregion (San Diego and Las Vegas) the home of G5 programs that prevent its connection and overlap with Arizona Sun and Front Range. Northern California and Cascadia lose that connection and passion by having the same situations with its border metros of Fresno, Reno and Boise keeping them disconnected from Front Range. The people in Southern California don't care as much about the Front Range & Arizona Sun or the Pac-12 as a whole because there isn't a sphere of influence overlap. That happens throughout our conference with the only exception being the coast with Cascadia connecting/overlappng with Northern California which connects/overlaps with Southern California. It's why the Pac-8 fans feel disconnected to the other conference schools in the Arizona Sun and Front Range -- because they are. Fixing that has huge value because it would increase the Pac-12's likelihood of creating event games -- locally, megaregionally or nationally.
Some scenarios for Pac-12 expansion:
What would a KU or KSU do? They wouldn't do much for the Pac-12's likelihood of creating an event for the whole Great Lakes megaregion or even the chunk nearest east of Kansas City. Neither KU or KSU has enough pull to capture influence of any unaffiliated areas. They'd basically pull in the roughly 3 million people in KS as passionate fans who could create an event. And neither program's pull, by itself, would be strong enough to grab the Kansas City metro away from the Great Lakes and into the Front Range megaregion. Maybe if you got both KU and KSU that could happen, but then you're taking 2 schools to get that effect with a limited number of spots (opportunity cost) and half the additive effect for each school.
What would a Boise State do? Basically, everything KU or KSU would do on its local level except less from a 1.7 million population in ID compared to 3 million people in KS. That gives a solid nudge to one of the KS schools on the "local market" size criteria. But with that, BSU's level of local influence is stronger since it has no FBS competition within its local sphere. Further, Boise State stretches the Pac-12's sphere of strong influence within the Cascadia megaregion to its edge. That gives the Pac-12 total control over the influence there -- leading to all Pac-12 games, particularly those involving Cascadia teams, being more likely to create an event within that entire megaregion. Further, Boise State is a connector to Utah's sphere of influence from the Front Range megaregion. This will directly increase event creation likelihood in the Front Range megaregion for Cascadia games and vice versa since their respective spheres of influence were made to overlap. Taken together, even though they don't bring a rivalry game, adding Boise State is more likely to create events for the Pac-12 (directly and indirectly) than either KU or KSU would.
CSU gives the Pac-12 total control over CO and its 5.6 million people while strengthening the pull of the Pac-12 within the Front Range megaregion. It also creates a new event with the CU-CSU rivalry game which is something programs like KU and KSU don't do. Definitely a more valuable option.
The one program from the expansion list (other than the elites of NU, OU and UT) that is outside the Pac-12 megaregional footprints and might bring more value than the options within the footprint -- Texas Tech. There are 3 million people in West Texas, which is an unaffiliated area outside the Texas Triangle megaregion to its east. TTU potentially pulls the Arizona Sun Corridor's sphere of influence along southern New Mexico through the Las Cruces/El Paso area and down SW Texas along the Rio Grande. It also potentially pulls Front Range influence to the southeast. On that note, adding TTU pairs well with the idea of adding UNM since that solidifies the megaregional influences for the Pac-12 and strengthens the likelihood of creating events. TTU + UNM would be a much stronger duo to add than many might think -- but New Mexico is a small population state in which UNM doesn't have a particularly strong influence.
At the base of this, I'm really looking at 2 things:
1. If a particular school is added, how many more events is that likely to create per year from its football inventory (local, megaregional, national)?
2. From that, how big would an event be on the local or megaregional level based on the populations being strongly influenced in those areas?
The reason why I believe it's mostly about event creation now is because of how viewership has moved. If we're going to buy an app or pay to stream games, or pay for a conference network cable upgrade or app, the quality of the mediocre games doesn't matter much. What matters is how many events your matchups are likely to create and the populations your non-national events will influence.
Having true geographic ties matters. I talked a lot about increasing influence within a megaregion. But there's also the fact that dilution of ties will actually decrease a conference's influence within the megaregions it had. The average Oregonian becomes less enthusiastic about the average Pac-12 game if a KSU it has such weak linkage to is playing in a conference game. This is why C-USA failed. It's why the AAC can't keep a UConn. It's why we don't mention UCF or Temple for Pac-12 expansion -- they're too dilutive to the influence levels where the Pac-12 already is.
So give me Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State, UNLV, Nevada, BYU, Utah State or Colorado State over KU, KSU, MU, ISU or OSU. Potential connections made with TTU plus the link into Texas elevates them. UNM solidifies the Front Range influence of the Pac-12 while causing a connect/overlap between Front Range and Arizona Sun. So they are worth considering -- even more so as a TTU pairing since they would make it so Lubbock wasn't such an outlier unaffiliated area. But you only look at UNM if you can't get UT or TCU along with TTU. TCU might be more valuable to the Pac-12 than the PTZ & MTZ options since the problems of geographical disconnect dilution are likely outweighed by the benefits from its local population size (and recruiting grounds). But TCU is also a much stronger candidate if paired with TTU so that rivalry game comes in and increases the value of both.
If it's not an elite, I'm still saying that TTU + UNLV is our best addition. UNLV better links the Southern California megaregion sphere of influence to overlap with the Front Range and Arizona Sun spheres. That raises conference passions overall while also delivering that Nevada/Las Vegas local population influence. TTU for the reasons I stated in the preceding paragraph.
That makes my order in terms of the positive influence on events I think each program would create on average, either directly or indirectly:
Elites (UT, NU, OU or Notre Dame) followed by...
1. Texas Tech (potentially pulls Front Range & Arizona Sun spheres into west Texas + local population & some influence into Texas Triangle).
2. TCU (if TTU said yes or if UT says yes - otherwise drop from list for being too geographically disconnected).
3. UNLV (connects and overlaps So Cal with both Arizona Sun and Front Range + local population)
4. Boise State (strengthens Cascadia influence, overlaps and connects Cascadia and Front Range spheres + local population).
5. BYU (best western rivalry the Pac-12 doesn't have is them and Utes + strengthens Front Range influence).
6. CSU (2nd best western rivalry the Pac-12 doesn't have is them and CU + strengthens Front Range influence).
5. SDSU (strengthens Southern California influence, overlaps and connects SoCal and Arizona Sun spheres + big local population)
6. Utah State (adds rivalry with Utes + strengthens Front Range influence).
7. Nevada (overlaps and connects Northern California with Front Range sphere + local population).
8. New Mexico (strengthens Front Range influence, overlaps Front Range and Arizona Sun + local population)
Hawaii is not on my list because I think the influence would be negative due to causing more geographic disconnection and dilution of passion within the Pac-12.
A few other scenarios based on looking at things from this perspective:
1. Mizzou -- more valuable for the B1G, Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC? In all cases, the conference gains very strong influence over the state of Missouri since Mizzou is the only FBS program in that state. But with that, the Big 12 would only gain 1 true rivalry game thru Mizzou (KU). The SEC doesn't gain any rivalry games (exclamation point on that is they didn't think a thing of putting them in the East -- it didn't matter where they went) but is geographically connected. Pac-12 doesn't gain any rivalry games and is disconnected. However, the B1G would gain 2 true rivalry games (NU and Illinois) and is very geographically connected. If the B1G decides to expand, Mizzou should be the top target outside of elites. And if they come calling, Mizzou should listen.
2. Notre Dame -- elite, so every game they play has a high likelihood of creating some level of event. However, their relative value is different to the different conferences. For the Big 12, the value is the lowest since there is no rivalry game and no geographic connection that would gain a megaregional bonus within the existing sphere. For the ACC, it's not much better than with the Big 12. But they have the Boston College rivalry, so at least there's that event and there's also a very weak & tenuous chance to gain influence in the Great Lakes megaregion due to conference members Louisville and Pitt being on the edge of that region. However, there's a lot of strong influencer disruption in between South Bend and either Pittsburgh or Louisville so it's questionable just how much it really brings the ACC of the Great Lakes. Pac-12, like with the Big 12, has no geographic connection to get any megaregional bonus with Notre Dame. However, the conference has 2 Notre Dame rivals (USC and Stanford) which greatly increases the likelihood of a huge national event or at least a big multi megaregional event. The best, though, is the B1G. They've got 3 Notre Dame rivals with Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern. Notre Dame is also the only thing in the way of the B1G having total dominance of the core of the Great Lakes megaregion around Chicago. Potential for event creation due to rivalries and geographic + megaregional proximity to other programs in the B1G puts ND's value to that conference as high as it gets.
3. Arizona State -- its value to the Big 12 could be high, but could be dilutive. It could bridge unaligned areas and significantly expand sphere of influence for the Big 12 through NM (Front Range megaregion influence) when paired with TTU. Would dominate AZ and the Arizona Sun megaregion since ASU is a stronger influencer than UA. The Big 12 would also gain some competition for influence in the Southern California outlier areas of Las Vegas and San Diego where it's the G5 MWC, not the Pac-12, that has a D1 home program. ASU captures a big part of the influence in those metros despite them being in a different megaregion. But despite all that, ASU is really far away from the rest of the Big 12 conference and being way out on that island could be destructive for the Big 12. The value of ASU to the Pac-12 is higher than for the Big 12. Value comes from full control over AZ and the Arizona Sun Corridor along with near overlaps to Southern California and Front Range. And while it's close based on the above, what puts ASU's value way over the top for the Pac-12 is 1 major consideration: the rivalry game event with UA every year.