Over the past few years, conference realignment has been one of the biggest stories in the National Collegiate Athletics Association and there are reports that it looks to continue as the smallest power five conference left, the Big 12, has unanimously voted on expansion exploration.
There are a multitude of reasoning behind the expansion of the ten team conference as it is the only major conference without a conference championship game, well that was the case until the conference unanimously voted for the championship game to return in 2017. Big 12 commissioner believes that this is undoubtedly the best thing to do moving forward as he stated, “With the research and work we’ve done, we’re better off with a game than without.”
This makes perfect sense both financially and competitively as it is to be believed that the College Football Playoff committee values that last game of the season, as clear in their choice of the 2014 College Football teams when the Big 12 was left hung out to dry when both Baylor and TCU, who had one loss were left out despite playing exciting football all season long. Last year the conference had better luck with the Oklahoma Sooners qualifying in the committee’s mind, by finishing the regular season with only one loss.
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The question is now why expand when a championship game is now in place for 2017?
Adding two, possibly four schools, allows the Big 12 to keep up with the other conferences and to maximize its television revenue through its deals with ESPN and FOX. If four new teams were added (which was once considered highly unlikely) and is combined with the new conference championship, the league could see an increase of nearly one billion dollars before its television contract expires in 2025.
There are many teams interested in joining the power conference and the politics that will go along with the addition of teams is ridiculous. The conference will look into reaching into new television markets, such as the New York market by adding a team like UCONN. Other markets that may be striven for is in Florida with the University of Central Florida and South Florida in talks with the Big 12.
Oklahoma president David Boren has been known to state that when selecting the new teams, the Big 12 must be subjective and look for value in the expansion. Reaching bigger television markets would be one way in doing so.
Some teams that are in play for a possible addition to the power five conference is Houston, Memphis, Tulane, UCONN, Central Florida, South Florida, BYU, Cincinnati, Boise State, East Carolina, and Colorado State.
If they wanted to poach another power five conference and bring one of their schools to the Big 12, it would have to come from the PAC-12 and be either UCLA, Arizona, or Arizona State, according to Jake Trotter.
Many believe that some of these teams have little to no shot at receiving bids over the others, such as Boise State, whose television market fails to break the top one hundred which is unattractive when thinking of the financial reasoning behind expansion. Others like Tulane may be unattractive on the field, however the academic rate may have some school officials drooling to improve the conference in that aspect.
With expansion exploration in play, it is now time for commissioner Bowlsby and the University’s presidents to decide whether two teams, or four will be the right way to go. There should be at least two new additions, but taking the next step with four would not be a bad idea. In my mind, they should go ahead and upgrade to fourteen teams while the options are there, giving them some options in what colleges they want to invest in.
The four best candidates in my mind?
- Houston Cougars: Talented team that has shown it can compete with the bigger schools in recruiting the state of Texas. Texas president has endorsed Houston as a possible addition so that could be a sign of things to come if TCU, Baylor, and Texas Tech also hop on the Cougar bandwagon.
- Cincinnati: The Bearcats have been a prime option to join the Big 12 for awhile. Their football team is always competitive, basketball team is always in the NCAA tournament, and they are further north which could help placing teams into divisions.
- UCONN: Mentioned above, but getting into the New York television market would be ideal, but this move would be another step forward in splitting up the conference into divisions.
- Tulane: Honestly, this move may make little sense, but I am rooting for the smart school in this situation. Having a university with the academic caliber of Tulane could help the Big 12’s prestige.
If this were to occur, I could see the Big 12 splitting between a north and south division. In the north could be: Iowa State, West Virginia, Cincinnati, UCONN, Kansas, Kansas State, and TCU. That leaves Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Houston, and Tulane. This alignment will keep the Red River rivalry and Bedlam Shootout intact.
Teams will be available to meet with the conference in October, which make sure that these teams are competing in the Big 12 in 2017, just in time for the revived conference championship game.