Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford met with Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark to discuss potentially joining the conference, according to ESPN's Pete Thamel.
"Sources indicate that Gonzaga has been exploring its conference options, as it has emerged as one of the premier basketball programs in the entire country," per Thamel. "Both the Pac-12 and Big East have been engaged with Gonzaga, according to sources, but the extent of those conversations are uncertain."
Dana O'Neil of The Athletic provided additional context:
Dana O'Neil @DanaONeilWriter
Industry source confirms this report and says that the conversations are "real, but exploratory.'' That there is no timeline and that other leagues also have reached out to Gonzaga. Indications are that Zags would go for all sports, not just hoops. <a href="https://t.co/sFpv9HggKT">https://t.co/sFpv9HggKT</a>
Football has been the primary driver behind realignment over the years because it's the sport with the highest revenues. Targeting Gonzaga is about landing a premier basketball school since the Bulldogs don't sponsor football.
In the case of the Big 12, getting the Bulldogs would mean becoming arguably the deepest conference in men's basketball.
This would be a symbolic victory over the Pac-12 as well, since Spokane, Washington, is firmly within the Pac-12's geographic footprint.
The Big 12 is going to lose its two biggest schools, Oklahoma and Texas, when they join the SEC by 2025 at the latest. The conference pivoted by adding BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.
Yormark hinted in July that more expansion might be on the horizon following a report of the Big 12 possibly raiding some of the Pac-12's best remaining members.
"We are exploring all options and we are open for business," he told reporters. "I think it's fair to say I've received a lot of phone calls, a lot of interest. Nothing is imminent."
While the Big 12 finalized further expansion plans, it answered another big question when it secured its media rights.
Sports Business Journal's Michael Smith and John Ourand reported Sunday the Big 12 completed deals with ESPN and Fox Sports worth $2.2 billion over six years. According to The Athletic's Max Olson and Matt Fortuna, the contracts would include a pro rata clause were the conference to grow further.
Thamel noted it's unclear how much television money Gonzaga would receive since it doesn't have a football team. The annual earnings would surely be far more than the Zags are currently getting from the West Coast Conference, though.