"So if the Big 12 decides that it has to return to twelve schools (whether for all sports or for football-only, which has also been speculated), which is the 12th school?" Hopkins begins. "(I'm going to take it as a given that Cincinnati would be the 11th school, for the many reasons articulated by others besides me, primarily giving West Virginia a geographically-convenient partner.) Schools seemingly in the mix include Boise State, UConn, Central Florida and BYU. Memphis and Houston have also been mentioned at times.
"None of those schools do anything for me," Hopkins continues.
"But what if I told you that there was a large (over 32,000 students) state university conveniently located in a contiguous state with a pretty decent (okay, with a not completely historically awful) football program and good-enough academics? (Yes, damning with faint praise, but whatever.)," he says of CSU. " And what if told you that this school was also located close enough to a large media market and had a brand new, 41,000-seat football stadium opening in 2017? Wouldn't that school seem to make at least as much sense as an expansion target than the others supposedly being looked at?
"Yet I almost never see Colorado State on these lists of possible Big 12 targets, even though it seems to meet the criteria better than any other school realistically available," explains Hopkins.
The Rams have done everything in their power to rebrand themselves, which all started with winning football games. Jim McElwain, who may be disliked for the way he left Colorado State for the big time with Florida, should be commended for the solid foundation he constructed for the program.
CSU Football went 3-9, 4-8, 8-6 and then 10-2 under McElwain; winning started everything. Mike Bobo's continued that winning, becoming the first Rams coach to win seven regular season games in his first year as the head man.
Of course, part of that rebranding was literally the branding side of things; Colorado State moved up from Russell Athletic -- a third-tier equipment supplier -- to Under Armour. UA has been stellar so far, and Athletic Director Joe Parker has taken the department's partnership with the company a step farther, which will allow for further rebranding and new, alternative jerseys. Fans have been asking for them for years, and attaining those new jerseys not only will help boost merchandise sales, it signals to the rest of the college football world the Rams are attempting to "keep up with the Joneses."
Colorado State Athletics is proving they belong in the Power 5.
The new, on-campus stadium is helping to turn heads. It's hard to miss when an athletic department decides to dump a massive amount of money into fortifying their football program for decades to come. The stadium is coming along -- real progress can be seen just by driving by -- and it will open in 2017.
Now, as Hopkins pointed out, the Big 12 has to decide whether they want to stay at 10 teams or move back up to 12. The powers that be recently decided conferences only need 10 teams to hold a conference championship game, so the Big 12 isn't being pushed to expand for that reason. We'll have to wait and see what they do.
And then, if they'll pick CSU. Hold out hope, Ram Nation.