It didn’t take long for the Big 12 to get their expansion plans on their way. Following the snub from the College Football Playoff committee, it seems the conference is starting to think hard and strong about expansion, letting the University of Cincinnati know they’re on their shortlist.
So is the Big 12 expanding already? No. But as their commissioner said that they are going to think about how to avoid getting left out from the playoff in the future, it’s quite clear that making it a 12-league team which means having a conference championship game is strongly on their minds.
Why Cincinnati? They make the most sense out of the long list of candidates. They’re close to West Virginia who have been outsiders up until now in terms of Geography, they bring a big TV market, recruiting in both basketball and football from the state of Ohio and a strong fit academically. Maybe they’re not the best fit culturally (big research school in an urban setting), but those things rarely get in the way when there are bigger things at play.
A source suggest that officials from the conference have already met with administrators from the University letting them know that they’re not expanding just yet and this isn’t an immediate invite – but the Bearcats are on the shortlist should a conference expansion and realignment happen.
There is always the option of the NCAA giving the Big 12 a waiver and allowing them a championship game despite having just 10 teams. Voices from Baylor (not surprisingly) are suddenly making vocal calls for the playoff to expand into eight teams. Others from the conference don’t want to make an official request and attempt to change because of how it might seem coming from them.
Cincinnati are outsiders in the American conference as well. They are the only (sorta) Midwest team (for those who think of Ohio as Midwest) in the conference, while the rest are from the Northeast or Southern United States. They’ve been part of what used to be called the Big East since 2005. They finished at 9-3 this season, good enough for being named co-champion of the conference. They’ll be playing Virginia Tech in their bowl game.
Other names have been mentioned as possible expansion mates in the Big 12: BYU might be the best school the Big 12 has set its sights on, but their Independents, and there’s the whole playing on Sunday problem in other sports. Memphis (another AAC team), UCF, East Carolina and maybe Houston are all other programs that are being considered. Boise State, while being great at football, are too far away and don’t fit in geographically, other sports and academically.