NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Gonzaga

Conference realignment never really stops, the latest example of that landing Friday. Grand Canyon and Seattle University are leaving the Western Athletic Conference and will join the West Coast Conference on July 1, 2025, the WCC announced.

It's the second time in less than five months that the WCC has brought in a pair of schools to its ranks. In December, Oregon State and Washington State were voted in for most sports for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 seasons. (But not football, which is going to be affiliated with the Mountain West the next two years.) 

It's a coup for new commissioner Stu Jackson, who took over running the WCC a little more than a year ago.

GCU and Seattle U coming aboard means the WCC will be an 11-school league next season (with Oregon State and Wazzu) and then will increase to 13 schools (barring other movement) for 2025-26. That is expected to be the only 13-school season for the WCC, though. 

The two-year affiliation agreement with Oregon State and Washington State expires June 30, 2026. Oregon State and Washington State remaining as affiliate members in the WCC beyond 2026 is highly unlikely, sources said. The most probable end game for the Beavers and Cougars is linking up with the Mountain West and/or reforming a new league under Pac-12 branding, sources told CBS Sports, due to the tens of millions of dollars OSU and Wazzu gained amid the fallout of the Pac-12's demise. (The current buyout for Mountain West programs is $37 million and the league's media rights deal runs through June 30, 2026.)

Seattle U is a geographic fit, in addition to being a religious one; it is a Jesuit university, like many other WCC schools. Grand Canyon, on the other hand, was previously exclusively known as a for-profit institution. The Christian-based institution has promoted a change in its financial standing to nonprofit status in recent years. The IRS, the State of Arizona and the NCAA all recognize that change, though the U.S. Department of Education still classifies GCU as a for-profit entity; an ongoing legal matter has yet to settle the dispute. Which was why WCC leaders waited and deliberated for years before ultimately voting to bring GCU aboard. Grand Canyon's move to the WCC had been in the works for a very long time, but it wasn't a streamlined process.

Jackson worked diligently with some WCC presidents who were previously on the fence or against GCU coming on due to its for-profit model (in addition to its stature in academia). The big sell was how much upside GCU's basketball program provided in making the WCC a better conference. The contingency, per a source, was to bring Seattle U in as a package deal. It's also two teams being added for the anticipated loss of Oregon State and Washington State in 2026. 

"Presidents wanted to make sure they had two schools coming into the conference," a source told CBS Sports. "With everything going on in the television world, that as much as anything is a factor. Now we're picking up one of the top markets, in Arizona, and picking up Seattle and the west side of Washington."

The Antelopes have been a major factor in men's college basketball in recent seasons, having made three of the past four NCAA Tournaments under Bryce Drew. In March, 12th-seeded Grand Canyon upset its future conference brethren in an NCAA Tournament first round victory vs. Saint Mary's. Drew is 94-32 in four seasons with the program.

The latest with Gonzaga

This newest blast of realignment comes amid lingering speculation over the viability of Gonzaga leaving the WCC for a bigger conference. Most recently, the Bulldogs were attached to potential Big 12 membership. Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has been championing Gonzaga to join his league for nearly two years because he believes college basketball as a property remains significantly undervalued. Regardless, there is no momentum for Gonzaga to the Big 12 as things currently stand, according to sources. 

Talks about Gonzaga joining the Big 12 stalled in December, sources previously told CBS Sports, and they haven't gained traction since. Gonzaga not having football is the biggest prohibitor to its candidacy, in addition to many Big 12 presidents and athletic directors wanting to wait a number of years to see how the new-look 16-school Big 12 settles in before seriously considering another realignment move. 

To that point: At least week's Big 12 meetings in Phoenix, Gonzaga was not on any of the agendas and did not come up in multiple meetings between athletic directors and coaches, sources told CBS Sports. 

"This probably solidifies Gonzaga's retention for now as much as anything because they're going to end up getting at least two better games within the conference," one source said re: Grand Canyon joining the WCC. 

Mark Few's program remains among the best in college basketball and is coming off a ninth straight Sweet 16 appearance amid its 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament. It's poised to be a top-15 team heading next season as well. Gonzaga continues to thrive because of its dominance over the WCC, while the WCC continues to be viable because it has Gonzaga. 

As for the WAC and its losses of GCU and Seattle U, the league is once more in trouble after briefly enjoying a fruitful spate of additions. The WAC was at 13 teams as recently as the 2022-23 season but is now only assured of eight programs come July 1, 2025. Sam Houston and New Mexico State joined CUSA in 2023 (CUSA also announced on Friday that Missouri State was joining in 2025). Two years ago, Incarnate Word quickly made its way back to the Southland after initially planning to join the WAC. UTRGV is also heading to the Southland. Lamar also returned to the Southland in 2022 after a winless season in the WAC in men's basketball.

Led by Grand Canyon's 30-5 record, the conference ranked 14th in men's basketball at last season, finishing 11th the season before that. It was the strongest two-year run in men's basketball for the league in a decade. Grand Canyon's dominant run both helped the WAC but also distanced itself from other leagues in men's basketball. It was also operating with more resources than any other program.

Correction: An earlier version of this story accidentally identified UT Arlington instead of UTRGV as a team leaving the WAC for the Southland.