The blow of being left out of the College Football playoff has the Big 12 in some sort of panic, which includes contemplating expansion and a return to realignment, which includes teams like Boise State, Memphis, Cincinnati and UCF being considered among others.
Why now? The Big 12 school presidents were perfectly happy being a 10-team league, sharing and splitting the money among less schools, and not having a championship game. Instead, they thought, having a round robin league, in which everyone plays everyone (nine conference games), will be enough to convince everyone that their ‘one true champion’, the slogan commissioner Bob Bowlsby coined, is good enough to make it into the top 4.
But TCU and Baylor happened to finish with one loss each. The Big 12 didn’t have rules in place to determine a ‘one true champion’ so the two teams shared the 2014 conference championship. Everyone happy? The opposite – nobody is happy. The moment Ohio State beat Michigan State everyone could see it coming from miles away. Regardless of how it ended for the Big 12 teams, a one-loss Buckeyes team that beat someone (turned out to be Wisconsin, and quite the beating as well) in a conference championship game will find itself ranked higher than either Big 12 school.
Art Briles went off on the commissioner after Baylor beat Kansas State, which in his eyes (and most others) gave them the nod over TCU. Their records were the same and the teams they beat were practically the same. Baylor beat TCU in the head to head but lost to West Virginia, a team TCU beat. Minnesota were on TCU’s non-conference schedule, Buffalo were on Baylor’s. A difference, but bigger than the head-to-head?
Briles did politicking along with his school before the last game. After it, he was in full throttle mode blaming the commissioner for not choosing a ‘one true champion’. A day later, Bowlsby tried to make it as if the committee fooled him, but admitted the conference will be looking to make some changes. What? Right now he’ll be thinking about changing the tiebreakers so there’s no chance of a co-champion. But expansion is also on their mind, but that takes more time.
Who? The Big 12 almost fell apart after Texas A&M and Missouri left, but the power of Oklahoma and Texas, refusing offers from the SEC and the Pac-12, kept it together, resulting in a healthy, rich 10-team conference. There were talks about expanding to Florida through the Seminoles and in general raiding the ACC, but that right now doesn’t seem to be possible, despite the weakness in terms of quality for most of the ACC teams.
Who is on the list? BYU is a name that keeps coming up. The Independent program brings a very big following inside Utah and the nation due to the Mormon allegiance, but the moment WVU were added, there’s a limit into how far West the conference can expand. The Cougars still fall within the range of reason and fit in in terms of media market, a program with history and a big fan base and setting a foothold in unconquered territory.
Boise State might be the better team right now, but the Idaho juggernaut is 2200 miles away from Morgantown. Can that really work? In terms of football, Boise State fit in, but basketball isn’t very big there right now, and academics might also pose a problem. The Broncos are on the rise in almost every way possible, including one of the fastest growing TV markets. Remember, it’s not just people in Idaho that care about the Broncos, but in a lot of other states around.
But trying to look a bit closer to home, four options seem a bit more reasonable. UCF have been growing, and although they’re still little fish compared to the exposure Miami, Florida and Florida State are getting, moving to the Big 12 might give them another important push, a year after winning a BCS bowl. Cincinnati is another school that’s stuck in a conference everyone wants to leave. They’re just waiting for the offer that never came from the Big Ten.
Memphis can give them a foothold in Tennessee and SEC country, although everyone just wants to recruit out of Florida. Houston is another team that’s been mentioned a few times, but it’s hard to believe that another Texas school will be joining a conference with Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU, when the things they offer aren’t that extraordinary. East Carolina is another school that’s been mentioned, but do the Big 12 really want a third or fourth option out of North Carolina?