Thursday, May 12, 2016


Tom Keegan: Expansion bad idea for Big 12 but might help KU

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, left, and Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger laugh while taking reporter's questions after the first day of the conference's meeting Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, left, and Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger laugh while taking reporter's questions after the first day of the conference's meeting Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)


It will take expanding all the way to 16-member conferences for power brokers in college athletics to realize that the size that makes most sense is cutting that number in half.

An eight-team conference in which every school plays the other once in football and twice in basketball allows for more nonconference scheduling flexibility and ensures that no school has a scheduling advantage over another.

Eight is enough, the perfect number, really.

For instance, Kansas University could schedule five stiffs in football and pull off one upset in conference play and gain bowl-eligibility. In basketball, the Jayhawks could use the extra two games either to add a home date or schedule an annual home-and-home with a fellow blue blood.

Since the days of power brokers coming to their senses are decades, maybe centuries, in the distance, no point in spending any more time fantasizing about the efficiency of eight-member conferences.

Back to reality: Big 12 expansion talk buzz has returned in the wake of feedback from a consultant, Navigate Research, hired to conclude whether expansion from 10 to 12 would increase the conference’s chances of landing in the four-team college football playoff.

Doing so, the consultant concluded, would increase chances by 4 or 5 percent. OK, so that’s once in every 20 years.

Two questions: 1. Is that worth expansion for the sake of expansion? Of course not. 2. Does anyone really believe that the playoff won’t expand to eight teams within the next decade? Not anyone who knows how to follow the money trail.

Still, expansion will be discussed when Big 12 presidents/chancellors meet May 31 in Irving, Texas. Granting entrance to another member requires approval from a super-majority (75 percent). Obviously, if one school were allowed in, a second must follow.

It’s a lot of fun to discuss which schools make the most sense in the event of expansion. It’s also beside the point, because what’s best for the conference does not necessarily coincide with what has the best chance of gaining approval from eight of the 10 members.

For example, the University of Houston is so committed to football that it extended coach Tom Herman’s contract five years to the tune of $2.8 million per season. It ranks 10th among the nation’s television markets, per Nielsen. The city brims with outstanding football and basketball prospects.

All of that explains why Texas, and to a lesser extent Baylor and TCU, would not want anything to do with elevating Houston’s profile to the extent the schools begin losing recruits to the Cougars. The Longhorns are big in Houston and want to keep it that way.

Many suggest that Cincinnati would make a nice geographic partner for West Virginia. True enough, so that’s one vote in favor of the Bearcats. Why should any other school care about easing the travel burden for the Mountaineers, an excellent Big 12 fit in every way except geography?

Brigham Young? Nice national audience. Strong football tradition. The Cougars don’t compete on Sundays, which throws scheduling for baseball and some other sports into disarray.

Colorado State? That heightens the Rams’ profile big-time and does the opposite for the profile of the Big 12, which lost Colorado to the Pac-12.

UConn and Central Florida have reason to want to join the Big 12. FedEx long has been known to want to help Memphis join the Big 12. Reporting from ESPN’s Jake Trotter put some meat on those bones. FedEx chairman Fred Smith promised in a letter that was part of Memphis’ lobbying for memberships that his company would sponsor Big 12 football and basketball if Memphis were allowed to join, Trotter reported.

Memphis has as strong a case as any of the prospective members. Still, the addition of any of the interested schools would dilute the prestige of the Big 12, which already took a hit when Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M; bolted for more dollars.

Staying at 10 members seems the smart play for the conference.

Naturally, I would prefer what’s best for me to what’s best for the Big 12. I want to welcome Colorado State and UConn to the Big 12 so that the four Texas and two Oklahoma schools would form the South. Under that scenario, KU’s competitors in the North become Colorado State, Connecticut, Iowa State, Kansas State and West Virginia. In football, Kansas plays five schools per year from the North, three a year from the South, and schedules four nonconference games. It would soften the brutal schedule a bit. The Jayhawks lost their Big 12 games by an average margin of 35.7 points a year ago. That’s not as enjoyable to cover as a schedule that would add a weak nonconference opponent and cut in half the number of games against the six heavyweights from the South.

So I think expansion would be bad for the Big 12 and good for me, which is why I wholeheartedly endorse it.


Aaron Paisley 2 years, 2 months ago

"In football, Kansas plays three schools per year from the North, all five from the South, and schedules four nonconference games. It would soften the brutal schedule a bit."

You might want to fix that statement TK unless you want KU playing the big boys every year.

Benny Armstrong 2 years, 2 months ago

I think Tom has it backward from the point he's trying to make. If we added two teams considered in the north, then we'd play KSU, ISU, WVA, New Team 1, New Team 2 for 5 divisional games, and then a rotation of 3 from the south (UT, OU, OSU, TTU, BU, TCU), and 4 non-con games for 12 total. Obviously this would soften our schedule and allow us to avoid all of the south in a given year, which is what happened in the Orange Bowl season where we didn't have Texas and Oklahoma on the schedule.

Brett McCabe 2 years, 2 months ago

Keegan is right: hold tight. Or merge with the Big 10 and move on.

However, the Big 12 never does the smart thing, so.....

Adding Houston hurts Kansas with Texas recruiting, so I have no interest. UT already brings the Houston TV market, so there is no real gain for the conference.

Lifting a lower-level school to Big 12 status needs to be done cautiously - we did that with TCU when we should have added someone outside of the Lone Star state. I agree with Keegan, CSU really gets us nothing.

I saw a note somewhere else with the idea of adding Temple. It's a better idea than it seems at first glance. Though it's a private school, it would help with the TV count (spare me the "Phila is a pro sports town") and would keep us in two time zones. So, throw in UCONN and Temple. This gives WVU some partners, adds some good brand names to the mix, doesn't dilute recruiting in Texas, and might open some recruiting markets for us. Also gets us some East Coast press. In a world of bad options, this wouldn't be the worst. Adding Houston and CSU would be the worst.

Overall, though, I think the best thing would be to merge with the Big 10. This minimizes the Texas influence, and gives us some protection. It makes sense, so you can count on it never happening.

Jay Scott 2 years, 2 months ago

Merge with the B1G? Sure..... Thats hysterically funny....

Mike Barnhart 2 years, 2 months ago

Here's one:

2nd largest enrollment in its state - 41,000

Excellent national brand

great geographical fit for W Virginia

currently mid-major

large football stadium

basketball - won the league

football - won it's division

All that said, nobody EVER suggest Temple. Why?

Brett McCabe 2 years, 2 months ago

Great minds.....see above. I had not thought of Temple until I read it a day or two ago somewhere. You've listed many of the advantages. In my comments, I added two: East Coast media. Keep the league in two time zones. If we tagged on UCONN, we add two name brands.

Brian Wilson 2 years, 2 months ago

To me, I would like a 16 team league. Two divisions and the winners of each meet in a championship game. And to do something exciting and different, reseed the teams each year so we are not playing the same teams every year.

I really like UConn and Temple. Those are two well known schools with a following. I think the map of the conference would look good if we added Arkansas and LSU. Then two more from the East coast to go with UConn, Temple, West Virginia and I am thinking Maryland and Virginia might be tempted to move from the shadows.

Not gonna happen but fun to speculate tho...

Robert Brock 2 years, 2 months ago

The Big 12 should stand pat unless it can attract Power 5 schools. What's the rush?

Michael Maris 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm not opposed to your thought process. But, you tell me what P5S's are going to leave their current Conference to join the Big XII (possibly again)? Nebraska, Missouri, aTm are all staying put. Colorado would be the 1 school who may be regretting their decision. But, I doubt that they're looking to leave the PAC.

Like I said, I'm not opposed to your thought. Just don't see it happening.

Michael Maris 2 years, 2 months ago

If the Big XII's going to expand. Then, the idea of adding Temple is a good though (I hadn't really even considered them).

As most of you know, I've trumpeted for Northern Illinois. Same situation as Temple. If it's all about adding TV sets to a Conference Footprint. Then, NIU would do just as much as Temple would. NIU would be in the Chicago TV Market (that's around 10,000,000 TV possible TV sets). Both being Mid-Major Level Schools, NIU actually has more recent consistent football history than Temple does. NIU Alum are salivating at the mouth to join the Big XII. And, they'd get their games on Saturdays (vs. Tuesday, Wednesday Night games on ESPN). NIU would become Iowa State's new Rival game.

NIU Fan and Alumni Base not being that far to the East would really create a great Tailgating Environment. They're already expanding their Football Stadium. And, they have land to the West (of the current stadium) that would allow them to actually build a new stadium (if they needed more seating capacity, which probably would happen if they joined the Big XII).

Why stop at 12, go to 16 or 18. Add Memphis, Central Florida, Colorado State, etc.....

Otherwise, this expansion talk might as well be more directed at Texas, Oklahoma and any other possible desirable's being added to the PAC / B1G/SEC and the rest to the Mountain West.

Jesse Johnson 2 years, 2 months ago

I live in Utah so I very selfishly am hoping for BYU to join the B12 so I can catch a local KU basketball game at least every other year.

Micky Baker 2 years, 2 months ago

"Two questions: 1. Is that worth expansion for the sake of expansion? Of course not. 2. Does anyone really believe that the playoff won’t expand to eight teams within the next decade? Not anyone who knows how to follow the money trail."

The obvious answer to the first question is exactly what Keegan said. I do wonder if he's right about the second one. If it was going to be 8 teams, why wasn't it that way from the beginning? Not that it would benefit KU in football right now, but at some point in the future it might looking back at our history over just the past 25 years. We finished in the top 10 twice, At least once we would have been in the 4 team playoff, and would have had a better shot at getting to the title game that way or with an 8 team playoff. I still believe that 8 teams wouldn't be enough to actually have a true champion, though any playoff system is better than the previous system of just crowning the winner of one game the champs.

This is not like the 30 or so pro teams in which there are 8 teams in the playoffs. There are almost 130 BCS teams and leagues like the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Big East, PAC 12, etc. How about turning December into a college football extravaganza with 16 teams in the playoffs starting their first round the 2nd Saturday of December?

As far as expansion goes, I think UCONN would be a good addition to the conference, and I think we should only consider going to 12 teams maximum. Then add one more game for 13 for the regular season, plus the playoffs. Just something to think about.

Humpy Helsel 2 years, 2 months ago

Question: Would the "powers that be" allow Kansas to leave the Big 12 for another conference without Kansas State in tow?

Brian Wilson 2 years, 2 months ago

Actually, when the Big 8 was breaking apart, there was talk that the powers in the Kansas State capital were not going to let that happen. Too many in the state want the rivalry and don't want one school being seen as a lesser school than the other.

Bryan Mohr 2 years, 2 months ago

What makes sense is for OU to join the SEC. But they must create a narrative that blames the Big12 (failure to expand), rather than self-serving interest. Big12 expansion doesn't make sense unless taking teams from other power conferences (FSU, GT, LSU, Arkansas, etc.). But P5 schools want to leave the Big12, not join (NU, CU, TAMU, MU). OU doesn't want to be blamed for a Big12 implosion, and potentially separating OU-OSU. What is best for the B12 is for the B1G to take UVA and UNC. Then hope to get FSU, Clemson, GT to join the B12. What is best for KU is definitely to join the B1G. What is best for KU basketball is to join the ACC. I'm hoping OU will get on with it soon.

Kyle Sybesma 2 years, 2 months ago

I agree with most of what you're saying. The only way the Big 12 should expand is to add P5 schools and the only way that's happening is if the B1G breaks up the ACC first. Every scenario has a "yeah but...." in it but I'd like to see KU & OU go to the B1G. Rumor is that the B1G has done it's research on KU & OU. I think splitting from KSU & OSU would work if those two schools had safe landing spots like the SEC or Pac 12. Bryan, I get the feeling you see the comments from OU the same way I do. They advocate for expansion and the conversion of the Longhorn network to the B12 network knowing it's not going to work out and then they can bail to the B1G or SEC and say they said they pushed for expansion but Texas is to blame. If KU ends up in the B1G I'm all for the implosion of the B12.

Steve Corder 2 years, 2 months ago

I don't think it really matters. $ will rule after egos cool. KU will do fine regardless.

As for Houston & SMU (let's not forget Stephen F Austin since we're in the neighborhood)....we have those tv markets already.

Frankly, I would like to join a confederation of Canadian teams so our baseball program could be considered a southern school.

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