As you all probably know by now, there has been a lot going down in the realm of conference realignment.
Well, to save you all another long explanation, I’ll make this brief. Earlier this week, Oklahoma’s hopes and dreams of leaving the Big 12, which would have ultimately been the end of the conference as we know it, went for naught as the Pac-12, the desired destination of the Sooners, announced it would not expand to 16 teams.
As a result, OU President David Boren was forced to swallow his pride and recommit the university to the Big 12 Conference, despite all the fault it had with it when then-commissioner Dan Beebe played favorites with Texas by granting it its own television network, which can be seen as the root of all of the drama and controversy that could have ended the Big 12 as we know it.
Iowa State lived to see another day. Baylor did too. And so did Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.
The only problem: Texas A&M’s ship has already sailed en route to the SEC. That leaves the Big 12 with nine teams, an unfavorable number for a BCS automatic qualifier.
Rumors have been swirling about what the Big 12 will do to fill the void of Texas A&M. Will it expand to 10 teams and maintain the current structure it has after the departures of Nebraska and Colorado? Will it expand to 12 teams and re-establish the conference championship structure that it had before the departures of Nebraska and Colorado?
Here, I’m going to break down five candidates for the Big 12 to add to its conference.
Nickname: Fighting Falcons
Location: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Enrollment: 4,417 (Military Academy)
Current Conference: Mountain West
Air Force has given people mixed reactions as to what it would bring to the conference.
One of the major pros to adding Air Force would be the re-establishment of the market in Colorado, which was lost when the Golden Buffaloes left for the Pac-12 after 2010. One of the major cons is the addition of the Fighting Falcons in general. If Air Force joins the Big 12, it would be a perennial occupant of the bottom of the conference standings for a lot of sports, which wouldn’t make it any easier for it to become competitive when having to face Oklahoma and Texas every year.
Air Force does have a fan base across the country as a military institute, so that would certainly be a plus for the Big 12. Falcon Stadium is also a respectable venue with a capacity of 52,480, which is larger than the football stadiums of Baylor, Kansas and Kansas State.
If Air Force is not initially selected as the 10th member of the Big 12, I would definitely expect the Fighting Falcons to be either the 11th or 12th additions to the conference because, as you’ll soon see, there isn’t too much else to choose from.
Location: Provo, Utah
Enrollment: 34,130 (Private)
Current Conference: Independent (formerly Mountain West, WAC)
Say what you want about Mormons, but BYU is a sexy pick for Texas A&M’s replacement in the Big 12.
The main force behind BYU’s impressive campaign is its storied history in athletics — a 1984 national title and Heisman-winning quarterback in Ty Detmer and future NFL greats Steve Young and Jim McMahon in football and 26 NCAA tournament appearances in men’s basketball.
BYU would establish a market for the Big 12 in Utah as well as in the Mormon community, which it has yet to do. The school also has venues that exceed capacities of 22,000 in basketball and 64,000 in football, a definite plus for marketability.
One of the major negatives and probably the only thing that would keep BYU from actually joining the Big 12 is its current independent status. BYU, or “Mormon Notre Dame” as I like to call it, just recently made the move to becoming an independent after 12 seasons in the Mountain West Conference. Its television network, BYUtv, was one of the main reasons it became an independent in the first place. And even though proponents will say it can still keep its TV deal in the Big 12, there’s always a shred of doubt as to how accepted it will be with the likes of Texas and its brainchild, the Longhorn Network.
The other negative that only matters to some is the factor of geography. Provo, Utah, is almost 1,000 miles from the closest Big 12 school (Kansas State) and it 1,000+ miles away from all of the others. This is essentially the equivalent to South Florida being in the Big East, but the more we stray away from logically geographic conference structures, the harder it will be for families to travel and see their players play every year for conference games.
Still, BYU is the favorite to join the Big 12. Competitive athletics, an untapped market and Mormon street cred. What’s not to love?
Location: Houston, Texas
Enrollment: 38,752 (Public)
Current Conference: Conference USA
Here we go. Now we begin the portion of the discussion that makes sense but doesn’t make sense at the same time. Will adding a team from Texas benefit or hurt the Big 12?
The few proponents of adding a team like Houston or TCU to the Big 12, such as myself, will tell you that it would re-establish the old rivalries of the Southwestern Conference between those displaced schools with Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech. Houston has been very competitive since the demise of the Southwestern Conference, so why not add it back into the mix?
Well, one of the things that could possibly prevent any Texas team from being added to the Big 12 is the fact that adding another Texas team would dilute the recruiting pool in the state for Big 12 teams, which all rely heavily on their recruiting bases in the Lone Star State. Another damper on Houston’s possibly relocation is the fact that even thought Texas A&M’s departure would open up the market in Houston for the Big 12, Baylor still has a share in it. This, to me, isn’t a very compelling reason to not add Houston to the Big 12, but opponents to adding another Big 12 school to the conference are certainly using it.
Overall, I think Houston will be added at some point. If Air Force isn’t added, which there’s a good possibility it won’t, then look for Houston or TCU to call the Big 12 as their new home along with BYU, which is as of right now already practically in the Big 12 barring something catastrophic from happening.
Nickname: Horned Frogs
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Enrollment: 9,142 (Private)
Current Conference: Mountain West
This is a bit of a longshot in some respects, considering the fact that TCU is already slated to join the Big East after this season. However, that decision was made in haste at the time that it was because of the Big 12’s announced initiative to stay at 10 teams after the departures of Nebraska and Colorado in 2010. There’s no denying that if the Big 12 would have been exploring expansion that TCU would already be in the conference at least this year or next.
Now that the Big 12 is exploring expansion, TCU is getting cold feet and is contemplating moving to the Big 12 or staying in the Mountain West if it doesn’t make it to the Big 12.
Of course, TCU would be a huge addition for football, but a substandard addition in the big picture. The three other Texas schools are cringing at the thought of adding another Texas school to the Big 12, but again, it would re-establish past Southwestern Conference rivalries.
With markets and recruiting aside, I say the Big 12 would be foolish not to add TCU to its conference. It would offset Baylor’s awkward presence as the only private school in the conference and would also give another representation of small-enrollment private schools in the conference as well.
Location: Dallas, Texas
Enrollment: 12,000 (Private)
Current Conference: Conference USA
Here is the dark horse (pun intended) candidate to expansion. I’ll make this short because I’m getting tired of all these acronyms.
SMU received the Death Penalty in the late ’80s after scandals involving NCAA investigations that were rampant throughout the Southwestern Conference. Thus initiated the demise of the conference and the ultimate moving of Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech to the Big 12.
SMU has just recently become competitive in football again, with back-to-back bowl appearances under coach June Jones. Still, adding SMU to the Big 12 holds more negatives than positives.
The only positive is the re-establishment of Southwestern Conference rivalries, which has already been re-hashed so much in this blog that typing that out really hurt my brain.
The negatives? Pretty much everything discussed in the Houston and TCU sections of this blog post, but magnified times 10.
Overall, SMU has about a five-percent chance of joining the Big 12. That must sting especially as the only school of these five that have publicly come out with expressed interest in joining the conference.