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Pac-12 to Big 12: How the change will affect ASU's smaller sports

Some of the smaller ASU sports teams are not getting as much coverage regarding the conference change, but they are just as important


Photo illustration depicting ASU small sports heading to the Big 12 Conference.

ASU plans to pack its bags and make the move to the Big 12 in 2024. Football and basketball, as two of the most popular sports at ASU, have received the most discourse around the change, but the University has many other programs facing the same move and receiving far less coverage.

Many programs that get pushed under the rug are some of the best programs the University has. The swim and dive teams are currently ranked No. 1 (men's)  and No. 21 (women's), respectively, according to the College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America. ASU wrestling has wrestlers on world teams who are competing at the highest level, and they plan to send athletes to the Olympics in Paris this summer. ASU soccer has a high ceiling, recently proved by their upset of No. 11 ranked USC.

Head coach of ASU wrestling Zeke Jones said that he really looks forward to the new competition in the Big 12. Jones said that in the Pac-12, ASU struggled to get the best teams, such as Iowa and Penn State, to come wrestle them because those teams already have a tough schedule.

“We can recruit, and we can win,” Jones said. “We just can’t get a really cool home schedule; we have to beg those teams to come to wrestle us.” 

But next year, when ASU transitions to the Big 12, the wrestling team will be able to wrestle great competition like Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. 

READ MORE: Sun Devils 2024 Big 12 conference schedule officially released 

With new competition, ASU wrestling could be set. Jones said that with world-class training partners and world-class coaching, recruitment is no problem. In 2024, ASU wrestling will not only have the athletes they want and the trainers and coaches they want, but they will now have the competition they want. 

In the pool is a similar story — ASU has a very dominant team that just wants a better schedule. 

Logan Hirka, assistant coach of the swim and dive team, said that in the Pac-12, they are pretty confined to matching up with the same teams each year, like Arizona, Oregon State, Cal and USC. But with the transition into the Big 12, they will have more freedom to swim where they want. 

“The nice thing with the Big 12 is that they don’t give us a stipulation like you have to swim Big 12 schools,” Hirka said. “It’s kind of like your dual meet schedule is whoever you want it to be.” 

Another advantage for the team is that when it comes to the Pac-12 championships, the men and women have different meets. The women's championship tends to be in the last week of February, and the men's in the first week of March. But Hirka said that for Big 12 championships, the team will all go to one meet, so the coaches will be in the same place at once along with the swimmers and the team can compete as a true unit. 

The Sun Devil soccer team has had a good season, even though they have been in a bit of a rough stretch recently. Their final season in the Pac-12 had a pre-conference loss to a future Big-12 opponent, The Texas Tech Red Raiders.

This came in a game in Tucson where the team played well but had some missed opportunities that resulted in the 1-0 loss. 

“We played very well against Texas Tech,” freshman forward Savannah Maley said. “In my opinion, we just couldn't capitalize on our chances.”

Texas Tech is currently the fourth-ranked soccer team in the country, and BYU, the only other ranked Big 12 school, is currently No. 6.

Playing in a conference with multiple top-ten teams is nothing new for the Sun Devils, as this Pac-12 season they faced both UCLA and Stanford, teams ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively.

However, the Big 12 does not have any other teams in the rankings or receiving votes like the Pac-12 does with USC and ASU.

Besides different competition, the move to a new conference brings new places to travel and possible new experiences. Their travel could include schools such as UCF in Orlando, Florida, Cincinnati in Ohio, or University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, a place ASU coach Ali Hanif has already expressed interest in playing at. 

“Kelly and Mark are fantastic coaches at the University of Kansas,” Hanif said. “Both people that are good friends of mine and people that I got a ton of respect for, and the opportunity to get to coach against them is gonna be huge.”

Even though there will be tough teams for the Sun Devils to face, the team and coaching staff are looking forward to making an impact on the Big 12 soccer scene next year.

“For us to make a mark in a conference that's gonna be strong, and I think a conference we're going to do very well in,” Hanif said. “I think we're going to compete. I think we're gonna win championships in the Big 12.”

Edited by Alfred Smith III, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.

Reach the reporters at or and follow @HenryJSmardo and @haydencorrado21 on X. 

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