Is the Big 12 planning to go back to having 12 teams in the league?
Berry Tramel of the Daily Oklahoman spoke with Oklahoma president David Boren, who said Big 12 presidents agree that decisions on a football championship game, a conference network and expansion need to be determined soon, perhaps as early as the summer.
When it comes to expansion, there is no shortage of candidates or people touting those schools.
The six main contenders, according to colleague Blair Kerkhoff: Boise State, Brigham Young, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Connecticut and Houston.
So, let’s take a look at each.
BOISE STATE: Tramel last summer made the case for Boise State and Brigham Young joining the conference. Here is part of what he wrote about Boise State:
When viewers in Philadelphia or Fort Lauderdale or Kansas City or Seattle flip channels on a Saturday, they don’t recognize Cincinnati or East Carolina or Central Florida. And if they do, they don’t stop. But they will stop on Boise State. The Broncos are fun. The wild Fiesta Bowl win over the Sooners turned Boise State into a national underdog. The Broncos used that platform to build a portfolio that resonates with college football fans.
A downside? SB Nation looked last summer at Boise State’s resume, gave its academics a C and noted its small TV market. That’s not a good sign for a league looking to start its own network.
BRIGHAM YOUNG: Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples had this to say about BYU last summer:
The school, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, brings the largest potential audience. BYU is to Mormons what Notre Dame is to Catholics. Of all the remaining expansion candidates, the Cougars probably are the most viable from a brand-name standpoint. BYU’s refusal to play on Sunday could present scheduling issues in every sport except football, though.
CINCINNATI: On Sunday, the Jason Williams of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported about Cincinnati president Santa Ono’s efforts to join the Big 12. Here was an interesting part of that story about how Cincinnati had hired Pacey Economics to look at how the school measured up to Big 12 institutions:
In a splashy brochure dated November 2014, UC shows how it compares to the Big 12 schools in 10 categories — including annual giving, National Merit Scholars, total research expenditures, enrollment and endowment assets. Cincinnati would rank in the conference’s top 5 in each category listed, except the U.S. News & World Report rankings, which would put UC seventh.
Pacey’s research, completed in late 2014, looked at athletic budgets, football and basketball success, academics and TV market size. UC’s annual athletics budget ($27.7 million in 2015) would be the lowest in the Big 12, but Pacey pointed out that would be expected to increase in a conference where the athletic department could make more money.
UPDATE: Ryan Koslen, Cincinnati’s Associate Athletic Director of Strategic Communications, shared the athletic department’s revenues last year and the number was $52.5 million in 2015.
Cincinnati would also give West Virginia a partner in the East and a Big 12 network would love to be in homes in Ohio.
A downside? The Reds and Bengals are the big dogs in town, meaning Cincinnati will always be a little brother, even if it does join the Big 12.
CENTRAL FLORIDA: Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel stumped for Central Florida a year ago. Here is part of what he wrote:
UCF is a football school and Orlando is a college football town — located right in the middle of one of the most recruiting-rich, football-fanatical states in the country. … Academically, UCF’s athletic program has the highest graduation rate in the country among public universities and is fifth-highest overall — behind only hoity-toity private institutions such as Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern.
He also noted the large TV market that could join a potential Big 12 network.
The bad news is the distance the school is from others in the Big 12. That ugly 0-13 mark last season for the football team wasn’t great either.
CONNECTICUT: The bottom line in conference expansion: It all comes down to football. As much as the NCAA Tournament is beloved each March, football is the driving force behind adding teams to a conference. The Huskies don’t add much to the Big 12 in that regard.
The school’s biggest selling point is its basketball teams, men’s and women’s, and that it could draw some interest in New York, which would be a potential boon to a future Big 12 network. But that’s a stretch.
HOUSTON: A year ago, the chairman of Houston’s Board of Regents, Tilman Fertitta, made an impassioned plea for the school to be added to the Big 12 during an interview with the Houston Chronicle.
“Be a big boy, step up and put this school that has almost 50,000 students and is so high profile, has so many of the top schools in the United States, it’s a tier one university — we belong in the Big 12. We’re a big, major school with an unbelievable history in athletics and academia.”
Houston was 13-1 last season and also won 13 games in 2011, so the football team brings something to the table.
However, with Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU in the conference, Houston doesn’t add anything to a potential Big 12 network. The Cougars’ home, TDECU Stadium, is on the small side with just 40,000 capacity.
You’ve read a little something about all the candidates. What do you think?