It looks like the Big 12 is moving ahead with its plans to expand the conference, as BYU, Cincinnati, UConn, Colorado State, Memphis, Houston and UCF have all been in touch with different members of the conference, hoping they’ll be the ones to get picked.
What’s been a well-known secret for some time has become official, as the conference announced that commissioner Bob Bowlsby is now authorized to begin looking for expansion candidates. The Big 12 are the only 10-team conference among the power five, staying that way since 2012, when the last wave of conference realignment left them without Texas A&M, Missouri (both going to the SEC), Nebraska (joining the Big Ten) and Colorado (leaving to the Pac-12).
How much bigger will the conference get? Right now it seems that two is the obvious answer, but some has suggested adding four teams isn’t off the board. It’s been pretty much since being left out of the 2014 season college football playoffs that the idea has gained significant traction. The conference will bring back its championship game in 2017 after a vote passed allowing conferences with less than 12 schools to have a conference championship game. The one true champion concept crashed, and with the threat of the bigger schools leaving for greener pastures East or West of Texas and Oklahoma, the heart of the Big 12, eating smaller conferences is the only way out.
Many in the Big 12 admit that none of the candidates are a natural fit, some in more than just one way. Geographically, the level of football or its history, and maybe more important to everyone, the kind of market value they bring to the table, and market size and its potential growth. But West Virginia wasn’t a natural fit and they were brought in.
Big 12 officials probably fantasize about Florida State, but that’s not going to happen. BYU would be an interesting addition, but the religious problems of playing on Sunday, and the things that go beyond football, could become an issue. Boise State is another school mentioned from time to time, but the distance from the rest of the teams, academics and their other sports programs trailing football could also become an issue.
The Big 12 has other issues. The Longhorn network, and the seduction of Texas and Oklahoma (who won’t go without Oklahoma State, or so we always hear) never ceasing is a constant threat on the existence of the league. But for now, with the power 5 not aiming to become a Super 4 or something of the sort, at least not right now, the Big 12 is more likely to chew up the American Conference and maybe elsewhere before it falls apart.