Could former Big 12 members be in the expansion mix? Bill Snyder thinks so
Big 12 expansion is hot again — maybe hotter than ever — and universities all across the country are making comments, pushes, pleas even, to the Big 12 brass to find a way to place themselves on the VIP list.
This, of course, is a reaction to the Big 12’s announcement earlier this week that commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been given the go-ahead to gauge the interest and viability of particular schools that might be — today or someday — good fits for the Big 12 should it elect to expand back to 12 or perhaps even to 14.
The usual suspects are hot on everyone’s radar and that include Cincinnati, UConn, BYU, Houston, Memphis and others.
And then you have the group that has been mentioned several places and would be equally as excited to even get a shot to make their case. Think Colorado State, Tulane, Central and South Florida.
But a couple of the more interesting options, which a few people have discussed during recent weeks, surfaced this week when Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder was interviewed by a few media members at Big 12 media days in Dallas.
They’re familiar names and seem to be programs that Snyder would add if all of this were exclusively up to him.
Here’s the quote:
“I may be wrong and other people may see it differently, but I don’t think anyone could be in a better situation than the teams we have in our conference,” Snyder said. “I’ll tell you what. There are teams that left our conference right now that wish they could get back in our conference.”
Asked how many, Snyder twice responded: “Two I know of.”
Given that the Big 12 has lost four and added two in the realignment craze, that can only mean he’s talking about Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M.
So who is it?
I have my suspicions and I think it’s pretty clear which programs he’s referencing. Here’s a look.
1. Colorado — CU bolted the Big 12 out of fear that the whole thing was falling apart. It wasn’t the worst move for the Buffs, as it tied them closer into one of their hot recruiting territories (California) and also provided Colorado with some conference stability in unsettling times. But the west-coast existence has not been all roses for the former Big Eight member, especially when it comes to television exposure. Now that the Big 12 is stable again — at least for now — there’s no doubt in my mind that CU would jump back in if the opportunity presented itself. The recruiting base in California is there. Rejoining the Big 12 would allow Colorado back into Texas. The time zones for television purposes would create better exposure for all of its programs and the Buffs would be back with some of their friendly and more familiar foes. Makes perfect sense to me and, going a step farther, is 100 percent worth exploring.
2. Nebraska — As much as anybody, the Cornhuskers headed to the Big Ten in an attempt to get away from Texas and its stranglehold of power on the Big 12 Conference. And although that was definitely one of the positives of the move north, it has been one of the only ones. Beyond that, Texas no longer has quite the same amount of power as it did during those tumultuous summers of realignment, both at conference headquarters and on the playing fields. Is that reason enough for Nebraska to want back in? No. But the fact that the Big 12 continues to close the gap in its revenue distribution — up 19% from 2014 to 2015 and another 20% from 2015 to 2016 — certainly paints the picture of a stronger and more profitable conference than the one the Cornhuskers left. Add to that the fact that it seems to be common knowledge the NU is struggling with forcing rivalries with Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota instead of cozying up to longtime rivals like Kansas, Oklahoma and others in the Big 12 and it’s even easier to see why the Huskers could be longing for the good old days.
3. Missouri — Say what you will about all of that talk that just never seems to end about Missouri folks saying they’d love to play Kansas again, but I just can’t see the Tigers jumping ship to get back into the Big 12. First of all, I’m not sure the Big 12 would have them. Second of all, it seems that Mizzou still believes that being in the SEC footprint and bringing in SEC dollars is a better position to be in than any other. The Mizzou athletic department and the university as a whole are not only stubborn but also a little bit dysfunctional at the moment and, outside of familiarity and the renewing of some old rivalries — none more important and visible than the Border War — I can’t see many compelling reasons for either side to want to get back together. Still, the Tigers certainly belong at No. 3 on this list, simply because of the reasons you'll read about in No. 4.
4. Texas A&M — No chance it’s the Aggies. They’re happy and seemingly much better off in the SEC, where they enjoy the best of both worlds – drawing the highest conference revenue distribution check out there year after year and still having a strong recruiting presence in the state of Texas. The Big 12 could offer A&M the moon and the stars to return — which it wouldn’t — and I still don’t think the Aggies would even consider it.
So there you have it. My best guess at which institutions Bill Snyder was referencing when he talked about former conference members wanting back in earlier this week.
One key thing to remember here, in case some of you out there are rolling your eyes about the mere thought of all of this: Bill Snyder is a man of few words and one who likes to avoid the spotlight and keep things close to the vest at all times and at all costs. So if he’s publicly saying that two former Big 12 programs would be interested in rejoining the conference, you can bet there’s a whole lot of truth to that. He does not play games or become a part of tactics to put pressure on others or move an agenda forward. He calls it like he sees it, when he’s calling it at all, and that’s what makes his recent comments all the more interesting.
It will not be easy for the Big 12 to get two of its former members back even if it wanted to. But my guess is that if there’s genuine interest from both sides, it could one day happen. Beyond that, if it were to happen, I think the Big 12 would go past 12 to 14 during its next round of expansion.
It sure seems like it’s coming. As always, it’s just hard to pinpoint the names of those who will be involved.