Saturday, July 23, 2016

Big 12 Expansion: Who Makes Sense, Who Doesn't

New came out of Big 12 Media Days this week that expansion was back on deck with the conference after many months of will they or won't they. As of today, we know certain things that are concrete about the subject matter, and we know that most of the mess is purely liquid at this point.
I have decided to take my own look at potential Big 12 candidates (as many others already have with varying degrees of lunacy and sanity), and I will look at who seems like a fit, and who does not. Here we go into the madness that is Big 12 Expansion talk...

What Makes Sense

BYU In For All Sports
BYU has been the one concrete thing in Big 12 expansion talks this week. They have made an official overture, and presented two distinct scenarios for joining. The first scenario is BYU joining in all sports. I don't see any other option making sense, as the conference is a power player in every sport offered by the NCAA. BYU is a solid offering in football, would be competitive right away, and brings both financial success and a huge following into play. You never have to worry about empty venues in Provo. I will speak about scenario two in a bit.

Houston...and make it quick
The Cougars are as much a no brainer as anything I have ever seen when it comes to bringing in new blood. Of course, the Texas schools are now fearful of a rising power on the gulf coast joining their midst, because Houston could win right now. They have a top flight coach (Tom Herman), and brand new football stadium, and one of the top four populations in the nation for TV market shares. There is absolutely nothing to hate about Houston here, and everything to love...from the perspective of an outsider, of course.

Memphis...before the program falls again
The Tigers have been slowly rising under the guidance of now departed Justin Fuente (a former Big 12 assistant). The football program is not the laughing stock that they used to be, and Big 12 money would certainly help keep the needle pointed in the right direction. Memphis basketball has been varying degrees of solid for decades now, and they have former Big 12 head coach Tubby Smith running the show now. Is Memphis as strong as BYU and Houston? No, but they do bring their own money source into play with FedEx firmly behind them as a corporate master.

SMU...Bare with me
SMU brings virtually nothing into play as far as football success. Buth they do make a hell of a lot more sense than say, I don't know, West Virginia maybe? The tools are in place to bring together a stronger football program a few years from now, but nothing was ever built overnight, at least not if it was done the right way. Regionally, you have a natural rivalry fit with TCU anyway, and travel costs are kept down. SMU also is not exactly lacking funding either.

Notre Dame...It's time to make a choice for the Irish
Of course the Irish already have a deal in all sports but football with the ACC, and the buy out there would be hefty. The Irish also have a partial deal with the ACC in football that has Notre Dame playing six games per year against ACC schools. They also have long term deals with Stanford and USC, and don't forget Purdue, and other regional rivalries against Michigan State and Michigan that come and go. If you ask me, the Irish have become spread too thin while playing all sides of the fence, and they really should rally their resources into one spot. Why not the Big 12? There would absolutely have to be mutual interest here.

Makes Moderate Sense

Cincinnati, but for not great reasons
UC would bring into play what would be one of the smallest football stadiums in the conference in Nippert Stadium. Facilities aren't the best, and for bigger games, they would have to move to where the Bengals play. The following for UC football is not exactly overwhelming, and they don't create much buzz nationally. What they would bring is a natural rivalry geographically with West Virginia.

USF...For perceived market share
USF is getting better under Willie Taggert, but again, the buzz around such an addition would be minimal nationally, at best. The fan base is tepid at best, and they don't have their own stadium, which is something that would have to be remedied. THe only draw here is that sources have said that the league is dying to get into the Florida market, where several schools in conference already recruit. is king
Louisville has been an ideological target for the conference for years as an expansion candidate. If the conference had made that jump while the Cardinals were still in the Big East, this would make more sense. Louisville is still a fine target for the Big 12, but they are about to seriously get paid in a new ACC/ESPN TV contract, with a new network in tow. Of course I know that these conference networks have been failures more often than not, but as long as ESPN is still willing to spend money they hardly have like a bunch of drunk wildebeests, take that money and keep on trucking. The only Louisville ends up in the Big 12 is if the cash value of a new Big 12 TV deal is even better than what the ACC is about to get, and if someone can find the cash to get Louisville out of what will be an exorbitant ACC buy out. Still, I like this idea.

Nebraska...return of the Corn King!
Yeah, it would be a better fit for Nebraska to go back home, but would the members of the league want them back after Nebraska nearly destroyed the conference in the first place when they left for the Big 10? The other issue is that Texas is still in the conference, and Nebraska hates Texas. Texas is, after all, why the Huskers left the league in the first place, as the Husker folks felt that the conference had given Texas complete favored child status over all other. Hey, they were right, because everyone else who left, left for the same reason. Nebraska is getting paid in the Big 10, even if they are not the perfect fit. On paper, I would love to see them go home, but in reality, I see this as pure media speculation.

Colorado...Another wayward child returning?
This has been another media favorite this week, but it actually makes a bit more sense than Nebraska at this point, even if having them back in the fold gives a huge rivalry reunion effort, and brings two more charter members a seat at the table. The issue here is that Colorado has been awful in the PAC-12. They cannot win a damned thing in football. Why would the Big 12 want the PAC-12's garbage? The other issue is that Colorado had already left the conference in the lurch once. Would the Big 12 take another shot on them? That is hard to say. Colorado hasn't been a good fit in the PAC-12, not only because they can't win, but because conference fans all around the league never wanted them in the first place. Most wanted BYU. Nobody would sob tears of distress over the Buffs leaving the Far West, but I am not sure of the actual reality behind this. One other thing...If the ACC deal passes through, and the Big 12 gets it together to work around the Longhorn network and form a new conference network (fat chance there), the PAC-12 would have the worst conference TV deal among the Power 5 conference. We'll let that hang for a while.

Like a Wookiee living with Ewoks on Endor, this does not make sense

U Conn...Really?
The Husky football program brings nothing to the table. There isn't a huge amount of cash flow involved. The TV market is one that gives not a damn about college football, and is moderately sized anyway. Travel costs would be prohibitive. Nothing about U Conn makes sense here, which makes me wonder why I continually see them pop up as a candidate.

Tulane...Words cannot express my confusion
Tulane brings nothing in football, and brings nothing in basketball. They have a brand new football stadium, but little else, despite making a solid hire this past off-season in Willie Fritz. The money situation at Tulane has always been questionable, and stability is not exactly something that goes hand in hand with this program. All of this is true, yet this name also pops up.

UCF...Not even the favorite team of students on campus
UCF is a large commuter school. Most students on camous don't care about the program. They have a relatively new stadium, but attendance isn't awesome. The program has hit rock bottom in recent years, and there is no telling where it will go under Scott Frost. All of this rings true, and add to these facts that people in Central Florida are ALL GATOR FANS, and there you have my reasoning as to why UCF would be a disastrous add on for the Big 12, despite their inherent need to get into the Florida market.

BYU...In football only
This is the second BYU scenario that we talked about when opening this piece. I am not even really certain as to why BYU would even offer this up? The buy out from the West Coast Conference could not possibly be all that outrageous, so I am sure that the Big 12 could pony up if need be. Why in the world the Big 12 would take this offer is beyond me, so again the question has to be asked as to why it was ever offered in the first place?

Rice...Because, Rice
First of all, the enrollment size of this private Houston university is incredibly small, and would be, by far the smallest enrollment in the conference. Rice is not exactly a hot topic school for membership, but if we have to talk about Tulane, than why not Rice? Rice would never really be able to compete in the conference, so there is no reason to even seriously consider them, but someone will, I am certain.

Colorado State...Huh?
OK, they are better than they used to be. Is not that enough to get into a Power 5 Conference? I don't think so. Again, Colorado State is not a national buzz worthy addition. I can see it if Colorado returned, maybe, but this is really a reach when there are so many obvious choices that should be made first. Other than having a new stadium to play in, Colorado State brings not much of anything to the party for my consideration.

Boise State...Because nobody else wants their low academic standards
This program would be a perfect fit for the PAC-12, but the academic standards at Boise State are not up to par, and that is keeping the door shut. The Broncos have been trying to kick down the door for years, but until they shore up that issue, it may be a no go. They Big 12 could sniff in their direction, but they are really outside of the footprint, and it would maybe be a jump that they may not be up for at this point. Remember, anybody can beat Oklahoma once.

UNLV...For no real reason other than the promise of a stadium that may not ever be built
The UNLV name has been bandied about in Big 12 conversations, but much like Boise State, UNLV's academic standards are a huge road block for many. That is what is holding them out of consideration for PAC-12 membership. They are also being packaged up with a potential stadium deal with the Raiders, but those negotiations have largely been sloppy, to say the least. The cost of this new palace has now soared to $2.4 billion as of latest estimates. Compare that to the new stadium that the Vikings will inhabit in Minnesota at $1.1 billion, and you see where this is going. Let us also not forget that the UNLV football program, while showing signs of long term promise under Tony Sanchez, has long been a laughing stock, and it becomes almost impossible to see UNLV going anywhere anytime soon.

UCLA...Because Rick Neuheisel was obviously drunk when he brought this up
Here's the thing. Rick Neuheisel has very few sources of information in Westwood these days. That is obvious when he brought up on his radio show this week that UCLA would not shock him by reaching out to the Big 12 during this process. UCLA just generated millions of dollars in their own revenue from an apparel deal in recent months, so money is not a problem. They have added all sorts of financial benfactors in recent years as well, so again, booster money isn't an issue either. I understand that the PAC-12 network has been an abject disaster, but I do not see UCLA splitting from USC and the conference that they have called home in its many names since the beginning of time for a short game gain in the Big 12. This is ridiculous.

Utah...Because they want so badly to be joined up with BYU again (#Sarcasm)
The Utes are another program that has been brought up in this mess, and again, make zero sense as potential candidates. If BYU is going to the Big 12, and it looks like they are one way or the other, there would be no interest on the part of Utah to join them there. Utah has been going to great lengths get far away from BYU on every level, including orchestrating a campaign to keep them out of the PAC-12, despite what the overall conference fan base wants to see happen. Utah will go nowhere near any conference where BYU lands, they are fitting into the PAC-12 tapestry nicely, and have shown no overt interest in leaving.

Hope this clears a few things up, but remember, like all things Big 12, this is purely speculation. We should know more in the coming months whether the conference moves to 12 teams, moves to 14 teams, or stalls out on this project yet again.
One also has to consider that some teams may actually choose to leave before any of this could even happen. Oklahoma is now a candidate to join the SEC, Big 10, and PAC-12, and would likely take Oklahoma State with them. Texas is also all over the place on what they want to see happen, but we  all know that their first option is staying in the conference, as long as they are allowed to rule above all others and they always have a chance to stick it financially up the asses of their conference brethren. That would be just fine by them, as it always has been.
Good luck to all, and let the grovelling begin...

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