Who could forget all the bad puns and catchphrases that you hear in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film? The one that stand out the most to me is when the Terminator says one single sentence to Sarah Connor “Come with me if you want to live.” The reason I say this because you could easily reword this and ask the Big 12 “expand if you want to live.” The Big 12 was fortunate this season to Oklahoma represent them in the playoffs. If Stanford would have not lost to Oregon, they would have easily leaped over Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff rankings. Even Bob Bowlsby, the commissioner of the Big 12 and ironically the former athletic director of Stanford has stated that not having a championship game puts them at a disadvantage. Nonetheless, judgment day will be upon us on January 15th; that is the day that the NCAA will decide to lift its requirement of whether you need to have 12 members to have a conference championship. It seems that this will be ground zero for another round of expansion.
Currently, the Big 12 sits at ten member and they want to hold the possibility of having a conference championship game without expanding. The Big Ten added a last second provision that would require them to have two equal divisions. This may not mean anything on the surface but this shows that the Big Ten will be an obstacle for them. As a matter of fact, there have been some sources that even state that 70% of the conferences are ready to vote against them. If that happens, then all hell could possibly break loose. Conversely, there are other reasons to why they should expand: expanding market shares, giving more insurance of a team within the conference going to the playoff, and most lucratively, starting a conference network.
First off, the Big 12 covers only 5 states and the most important is Texas. This means adding more eyeballs to television sets. No longer are programs like Pittsburgh, Louisville, Florida State, or Clemson are available. The pickings may be slim but the cupboards are not completely bare. There are still some decent candidates available. They are as followed:
- Cincinnati- They are in a sizable market with a metro area of over 2 million people. Also, Cincinnati is in the state of Ohio, which is a very fertile recruiting ground. Just ask some out of state programs like Michigan where they got athletes like Desmond Howard from. Most of all, they would make a great neighbor to West Virginia and the past seasons, they have a been a consistent winner.
- Memphis- Another up-and-coming program with potential upside in a top-50 media market. Tennessee has been a great recruiting ground for schools like Ole Miss. They also have corporate sponsorship thanks to Fed Ex. Their only problem may be that they do not have the chops as a football program yet.
- BYU- They are the most established candidate available. They easily tap into the Salt Lake City media market and recruit well on the West Coast, especially with the Polynesian athletes. They have won a national title in the past and have a great tradition of winning. The only problem is that the Big 12 will create another outlier with them. The Big 12 has even said that if they wanted to expand, that they would prefer to expand eastward to ease West Virginia’s burden. Also, the fact that they would not play on Sunday may also create some problem. There might be the possibility of them being a football-only member.
- Central and South Florida- They are in the most fertile recruiting ground in the nation. Central Florida seen success with George O’Leary including a Fiesta Bowl victory and South Florida had at one time, been ranked #2 in the nation. Orlando and Tampa also reside in highly populated media markets and could allow the Big 12 to have bowl tie-ins in Florida. Their only problem is not being established enough.
Secondly, playing a thirteenth game will put them on the same level as the other Power Five conferences. Dave Boren, president of Oklahoma has even stated that the Big 12 needs to expand. He has been a very strong proponent of this action and has considerable influence. Texas has lost considerable clout with mediocre seasons and sub-par recruiting. They are losing their home state and are even having to raid the coffers of Florida for talent.
Lastly, adding more teams will allow them to have their own network. The hugest obstacle has been the Longhorn Network. Due to the fact that Texas underperformed under Charlie Strong, not too many people have been subscribing to it. As a matter of fact, the network has been hemorrhaging cash at the tune of $46 million according a news report. This may be the best thing that could happen to the rest of the members of the Big 12. ESPN just might dump it. Add to the fact that West Virginia’s new president, Gordon Gee, who was proactive as president in Ohio State with expansion, expansion may be on the horizon.
In conclusion, a lot of shifting pieces will be set in motion will be set in this meeting. At long last, something may be done to ensure the long-lasting survival of the Big 12.