Colorado State is easily one of the least attractive of all the potential Big 12 expansion candidates that have been floated out, keeping ahead of UConn thanks to simple geography. At least, that's how things are viewed by the national pundits (and a very vocal sect around here *cough*Panjandrum*cough*).
Around Bring on the Cats, the Rams have long been the butt of jokes regarding expansion, largely to goad Pan into a fit, but have recently become an actual serious candidate thanks to a perception that BYU may want a western travel partner should they get offered an invite, and the potential for locking down the Denver media market for future Big 12 Network considerations. But does that make them an actual candidate, or one that just looks good on paper? Well, earlier today Jeremy Mauss gave you some reasons why the school in Ft. Collins is legit, so now it's time to look at why that paper, and those notions rolled up in it, is really just ready to go up in smoke.
Colorado State is one of three potential expansion candidates that have been floated out that has never in their history been a part of a major (BCS/P5) athletic conference or a major independent. For most of it's modern history, CSU has been either a member of the WAC or the Mountain West conferences, and has been with the MWC since it's founding in 1999. The Rams also haven't been consistently competitive against upper-level competition in any sport in the same way that former conference mate TCU was in football and baseball. Sonny Lubick never beat Colorado more than twice in a row, the men's basketball team is only 4-11 in NCAA play, and even the women's basketball team who, in 2015-16, experienced a season where they lost only one regular reason game, still lost their first game of the NCAA to South Florida. If you want to play with the Big Dogs, you have to have at least one major team that shows they are ready for the big show on a regular basis. The point was made the other day about USF, but it rings true even more for CSU. There just isn't much about the Rams that screams "Big Time".
There has been much talk about the TV market that Colorado State could bring. And there's no knock here, Denver is a big market that would bring lots of money. Except that, even after the departure of CU, Denver is still somewhat part of the Big 12's footprint thanks to two things: history and alumni. CU looked west for a long time, but the Denver market was used to looking east. It's the same reason that the SEC got to claim the Kansas City market, but doesn't actually see much support there. Denver still gets a LOT of Big 12 programming. And as far as future models go, Denver still is big in streaming avenues thanks to the large number of Big 12 alumni who live in the greater Denver metro area. K-State alone has a big alumni base in the Mile High City, and other Big 12 schools can make similar claims. So yes, technically CSU officially re-adds that market, but in reality did the Denver market really leave with Colorado?
CSU is building a new on-campus football stadium to replace venerable Hughes Stadium, but even the new stadium would be the smallest in the conference by 5,000 fans. Now, if they can fill it then it's still better than those kids down in Lawrence, but it's still not a big selling point for the biggest schools in the conference. At least their basketball arena wouldn't be the worst in the conference, besting their former MWC foes by several thousand (and a normal floor instead of that weirdness in Ft. Worth).
Okay, it's time for all the other stuff, and it's going to get a bit hazy in here. First, the Big 12 is a mid-western conference, which means it's fanbase is generally rooted in "red" states that don't take too kindly to your notion of "abnormal" stimulation. I mean, Kansas still has some pretty harsh laws concerning the wacky-tabaccy, and I've personally seen KS Highway Patrol sitting at the Colorado border waiting to nab people trying to bring drugs into this "pristine" state.
And skiing, I know you like to try to sell the resort areas to your west as a thing, but plenty of the people in the Big 12's footprint already do that as a vacation. It isn't a new thing, and it's not really a perk. If we're just going to add schools because of the intagibles, we might as well just make your eastern neighbor a full member (oh, you didn't know UNC was an affiliate member of the Big 12??). I mean, sure, it;s a stretch, but at least they already have a major conference sport.
Back to seriousland, there are some decent things in CSU's favor, notably geography and proximity to BYU if they get invited, but really, on the whole, there isn't much about CSU that screams Big 12. Colorado State is the kind of school that Big 12 schools schedule to get a mid-major non-conference team on the schedule they thin k they can beat, not a team they would seriously consider a peer.
To put it in the words of our own Panjandrum, "Don't be stupid."