Six years ago the Big 12 was diagnosed with a terminal disease and up until this point has refused any treatments. The conference isn't quite on its deathbed yet but without significant changes it will be within the next eight or nine years. In an era where conferences are expanding, dollars are blowing, and football is as epic as it's ever been, the Big 12 has to reach out and pull in a fresh crop of schools.
So, who would you have join the conference? We certainly have our thoughts and sure would like to know yours. Is Houston in or out? What about BYU or Memphis? Let's talk about it.
Alright, let's start this out with each of us stating our case for or against Big 12 expansion.
Matt: I think it's a no-brainer that the conference needs to expand. College football has become a "survival of the fittest" sport and the conference, in it's current format, is not fit for survival. The Big 12 has the opportunity to have the largest footprint of any conference in the country if they expand to the west. Time to do it is running out though.
Rich: The biggest argument for expansion of the conference is found in the idea of increasing the chances of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. Of course college athletics are driven by revenue, something the CFP provides to those fortunate enough to land inside the top four of the final rankings.
Unfortunately, the Oklahoma Sooners dismantled the argument when the committee ranked them No. 4 in the final week. Regardless, the sample size is not one I'd take into account. On another note, the Big XII was granted the ability to host a conference title game despite being home to a mere 10 universities. If the B12 is looking to expand to 12+ teams for the sole reason of increasing the chances of an appearance in the CFP, I'm firmly against the idea.
Donnie: I'm ultimately on "Team Blow the Conference Up" but if the Big 12 is to even have a chance at survival expansion is a must. Often times perception is reality and in this case, the Big 12 is seen as inferior to every other Power 5 conference. If I were I charge and could make an executive decision, I would expand immediately.
How many teams should the conference expand by?
Matt: If you're going to do it then do it right. The 16-team conference is the wave of the future and I say the Big 12 needs to get ahead of the curve. Why add just two now when you're going to need to look for four others in the near future?
Rich: Ideally, I'd like to see four teams. To compete with the other major conferences in exposure and revenue, it's clear a B12 Network deal must be struck while dissolving the LHN. Without 14 universities, the Network lacks constant, yet worthy, content.
Donnie: The minimum number of teams has to be 2. That is a no brainier, but I in no way would be against adding 4 teams if it made sense. The making sense part is where things get rough.
So now let's make an argument for the teams. Who are you putting in?
Matt: Like I mentioned before, the Big 12 has the opportunity to have the largest footprint in the country. The ship has sailed on Louisville but adding Memphis and Cincinnati are viable options to expand to the northeast. Going south Houston is primed to make the jump to a Power 5 conference and that's some of the most fertile recruiting ground there is. Out west BYU is begging to get in and going the opposite direction South Florida would be an immediate draw for fans wanting to take road trips. Then, if you go to the northwest there's Colorado State just sitting there. That's a really big footprint!
Rich: Will a power five team leave to join the unstable B12? No way! That leaves me with the top options of BYU, Cincinnati, Memphis, and a team from Florida in that order.
Donnie: I'm operating under the assumption that no current power 5 school would consider the Big 12, but if it were possible, give me Nebraska, Iowa, Arizona, and Arizona State. Knowing that is a pipe dream, I would shoot for at least 14 teams, but I wouldn't be opposed to 16.
The conversation starts with both BYU and Cincinnati for me. These two schools are almost no brainers at this point for me. You build a pseudo land bridge for WVU by adding Cincy and you get a team in BYU that has a national following and better than ok football tradition.
Now as far as the next two teams, this is when things get tricky. Houston will get some love but I think that would be a bad decision as the Big 12 owns the Texas market already, and you would be legitimizing another school in the state of Texas that you would then have to recruit against. It wasn't too long ago when TCU NEVER beat OU/Texas for a recruit and now it's starting to become a much more common occurrence. No need to give Houston the chance to do the same.
UConn will get some buzz, but it's REALLY far away and has no football tradition, so they would be out for me as well.
That leaves schools like Memphis, Boise State, UCF, and USF. For sake of brevity give me Memphis and Boise State (we still owe them for all those dumb trick plays), but you could probably convince me to take USF and UCF as well to make 16 teams as it opens up new TV markets and allows OU to recruit at a higher level in the state of Florida.
Looking at the other guys in this group which teams do you like and why?
Matt: I agree with Donnie that no Power 5 team is going to move over to the Big 12, but I do like the usual suspects that are listed above. I think Memphis and Cincinnati make a ton of sense geographically and BYU has been in free agent mode for the sole purpose of landing in a power conference. Houston also makes a lot of sense for me because that area is a recruiting hotbed and Oklahoma has had limited access to it since the departure of A&M.
Rich: I'm down for adding any PAC-12 Team this side of the Rockies as well as any other school located in the Tennessee area. Geographically including universities in the state of Arizona or Tennessee makes sense. However, these are also new markets for the Big XII while gaining the added bonus of expanding into more recruiting grounds.
Donnie: I don't know if I really "like" any of the teams.... It's kinda like choosing between something that's average and something that's below average. You would obviously try to get into new markets and add teams with larger fan bases. As far as the average group of of possible expansion teams I think it has to come from this group: BYU, Cincinnati, Boise State, Memphis USF, and UCF.
Which teams do you not like and why?
Matt: I think the only names I've heard in this conversation that I'm not a fan of are Boise State and Connecticut. With Boise you would essentially you'd have the same problem that we currently have with West Virginia...a crud-ton of travel and nothing to really fill the gap in between. Add to it that the Broncos are past their prime so to speak. Five years ago they were one of the hottest names in college football and they failed to make a move. Now they're a good team, that used to be really spectacular, who plays in a bad conference. I'm also not a fan of the smurf-turf.
UConn? Are they still an FBS school?
Rich: I'm completely against adding another Texas school even if it were Houston. Sure, we can talk about the loss of Texas A&M basically leading to a surrender of one of the more fertile recruiting grounds to the SEC. But, there are four conference schools located in the state competing for those recruits on a daily basis. In my opinion, there's no reason to thin the herd even further, so to speak, by adding another power five team to the mix.
Donnie: There are two teams that I don't think really fit into what the Big 12 should do going forward and they is UConn and Houston. UConn is just so far away and doesn't have any football tradition. Houston doesn't fit in my opinion because the Big 12 already has the state of Texas TV market on lockdown, and I don't believe it would be wise to allow another school in Texas to become a part of s power 5 conference making recruiting that much more difficult in a state where the Sooners must recruit well to win at the highest level.