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It never went away, but is Big 12 expansion back in the spotlight?

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So here we go again.... again.

As if any of us needed any more proof that it’s college football, and nothing else, that’s driving (and has driven) the seemingly constant changes on the landscape of college athletics, we now have more evidence.

The Big 12 Conference, which in the past five years has lost Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M while adding TCU and West Virginia, recently revealed that data from an in-depth study on expansion and how it relates to the College Football Playoff showed that adding members would upgrade the Big 12’s chances of competing for national championships in football.

Uh oh.

This news and the results of this study are something we’ve been waiting on and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and other Big 12 brass have been promising for weeks. And now that it’s here, the Big 12’s reaction to it should get very interesting in a hurry.

According to Bowlsby, the numbers run by Chicago-based Navigate Research show the Big 12 has a 4-5 percent better chance of reaching college football’s final four by adding two teams, playing one less conference game each season and hosting a championship game.

Should the Big 12 deem that data to be significant enough to again get serious about expanding, it would mean that the conference has to (a) agree and finalize its choices for which programs to add to the conference and then move quickly to bring them in and (b) get used to the idea of going back to an eight-game conference schedule with four non-conference games and scrap the whole idea of round-robin play determining its champion, a reality the conference has been beating the drum loudly about during the past few years.

Both developments, as well as the addition of a couple of teams that might not be on the same level as the nasty gauntlet that makes up the current Big 12 schedule, would be good news for Kansas football in the future and would be a significant lift for KU’s hopes of rebuilding its down-in-the-dumps football program.

Now the hard part.

If you’ve been following along at all during the past couple of years, listening to all of the rumors and speculation and wish lists and pipe dreams, you already know that identifying and adding a couple of teams to the conference will not be easy because there are no slam-dunk, obvious, home-run additions available.

BYU seems to be a likely and leading candidate, but beyond that, the all-important second choice is up in the air.

Bowlsby said the research firm that studied the data ran 40,000 simulations to reach its conclusion. The question the Big 12 faces now and into the future is this: Is that 4-5 percent enough to move the needle and make expansion the desired course of action?

Well, do your best to hide your shock when you read this next part, but it seems that the decision won’t be based solely on the on-the-field impact of such a decision. It will be and always has been about money.

“If we do nothing, we’ll fall behind the SEC and the Big Ten in terms of [revenue],” Bowlsby told reporters Monday in Phoenix at the Big 12 spring meetings. “We may be every bit as competitive as we are today, but we’ll fall behind financially.”

Later this month the Big 12 presidents will host their own meetings in Dallas, and that’s where things should get very interesting.

It’s hard to know exactly what’s next for the league, both in long-term and in the short term, as those in favor of expansion, like Oklahoma president David Boren, now have more muscle behind their push for expansion.

How hard will Boren and others recruit the rest of the conference to get on board with the idea based on this data? How difficult will it be for the conference to identify and agree upon the additions should they decide expansion is the right move? How quickly will this actually move? My gut tells me it will take some time and won’t be able to happen as soon as this summer as the pro-expansion crowd certainly would prefer.

Ever since the Big 12 starting losing teams to other conferences, the conference has operated with patience and taken a measured approach to every decision it has made or not made in regard to the long-term future of the league.

Whether that’s the best mode to move in which to move forward now depends on how significant the conference deems this data to be. The guess here is that it is significant enough and the winds of change will start blowing again. After all, doesn’t it seem like an extra 4-5 percent two years ago would’ve helped the conference tremendously when both Baylor and TCU missed out on being included in the first ever College Football Playoff?

There are, of course, other issues still in play — most notably what to do with the Longhorn Network and potential for a Big 12 Network — but the slow and methodical approach to exploring the possibility of expanding back to 12 at some point has eliminated a lot of those and it should be very interesting to see where things go from here. Will we see the Big 12 start to move toward getting serious about expansion or will it be more of the same?

Comments

Aaron Paisley 4 years, 5 months ago

Addressing the future of the Longhorn Network needs to happen before expansion discussions get really serious. The Longhorn Network will have a huge impact on future revenues because the Longhorn Network's existence means there will never be a Big 12 Network. ESPN needs to buyout the contract and convert the LHN to a B12 Network and this would help attract schools like UConn that have a foot print in 3 top 30 media markets. Cincinnati or Memphis are probably the second best realistic options out there.

Gray Grantham 4 years, 5 months ago

Aaron Paisley - Nonsense. The Longhorn network is not relevant. The Big 12 can and will create a Big 12 Network without the participation of Texas (unless LHN goes bankrupt and there is no indication that is on the horizon) and the Big 12 can do fine with a Texas-less Big 12 Network.

Additionally BYU may join a big 12 Network or because of its contracts may be like Texas in this regard.

Any way you look at it Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, K State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech can generate more Tier 3 revenue for themselves through a combined conference network then they could inividually.

Aaron Paisley 4 years, 5 months ago

A B12 Network without Texas is worth far less money than a B12 Network with Texas. There's also the issue that tier 3 rights for the current B12 schools are divided up among ESPN, ESPN backed IMG, Fox, amd Root Sports. Whichever network secured the rights to a B12 Network would have to buyout the schools not under contract with that network.

KU already has obe of the most valuable tier 3 deals out there and joining a conference network without Texas could end up costing KU money. Having UT in a conference network probably comes close to doubling the value of a B12 Network. That's a lot of money to leave on the table and would be beyond stupid to do.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 5 months ago

Look to the east. Add Cincinnati to give WVU a travel partner and make inroads into Big 10 territory, and add Louisiana Tech to gain a foothold in SEC territory.

Jay Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

La Tech is awful at everything. It's a small school with no standing in any sense. Northern Iowa would make more sense, which isn't saying much.

Gary McCullough 4 years, 5 months ago

Memphis would be a better toe hold in SEC country than LA Tech. Or better yet, raid the ACC for Georgia Tech. Wouldn't that be a burn.

David Robinett 4 years, 5 months ago

Invite Missouri back.

I hear they might have trouble recruiting in SEC states nowadays...so could be open to it.

Better than adding lower tier schools like LaTech or Houston.

Jay Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

Sarcasm I hope....

M'Zoo is toxic right now...

Michael Maris 4 years, 5 months ago

The idea of ESPN buying out the LHN, will allow the Longhorn AD and Administrators to pull the lever to exit stage left for the B1G or PAC.

My sources say that the B1G are heavily interested in adding Texas to their Conference Portfolio. BYU, they're holding out for a PAC invite. Big XII isn't even crossing BYU mind. Notre Dame is going to be forced to join a Conference full time in all sports. So, B1G is just setting and waiting for the Big XII GOR's to get closer to expiration.

The best scenario for Jayhawk Nation is for the Super Conferences to actually expand to 18 teams / with 2 divisions of 9 teams. You play the 8 teams in your respective division. Then, each team has the ability to play 4 teams from the other division or conferences (to keep old rivalrys alive, ie Notre Dame vs. USC, etc...).

That way Jayhawks get an invite to the B1G as well. Otherwise, with Texas leaving for the B1G or PAC, be ready to join the expanded MWC with K-State and others in an Eastern Division.

I actually think Iowa State would end up in the MAC, closer to teams in the MAC, then an expanded MWC.

Just my $0.02'$ worth on the subject.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 5 months ago

Like Gray, below, also good thoughts.

Another option? How about a straight up merger with an existing conference? Why continue to fight? Take all ten to the Big Ten or to the ACC and fold in. It would probably save a lot of unnecessary, intermediate steps.

Jay Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

Seriously? Which conference? The AAC? 21 teams total?

I think that you'll also find that all the conferences have half their teams with losing records in conference play....

Didn't you claim that the braintrusts of all the teams in such a league were idiots?

Gray Grantham 4 years, 5 months ago

So it seems like a slam dunk that the Big 12 will add at least 2 schools. But since this is largely about "keeping up with the Joneses" they might very well go to 14.

Sure the 14 team league has scheduling drawbacks. You play 6 divisional games each year and you see your inter-divisional rivals only once every 4 years, you get a home game against your inter-divisional rivals only once every 8 years.

Back to the Joneses....while 2026 seems like a long time away, it is really just moments away. The big 12 has one of the only remaining moments (opportunities) to position itself for 2026

Why is 2026 important? It is the end of Big 12 media contracts, the end of College Football Playofff contracts and it will be time once again to face the mirror.

Will Texas and Oklahoma remain in the Big 12?

Facing 2027 without Texas or Oklahoma, or both, would be much more survivable with 14 members going down to 12, then would 12 members going down to 10 or possibly 8 if Baylor and OK St. both tag along as Big Brother seeks greener pastures.

So I'm going with 4. Its a given that if any team from the SEC West wants in they would be welcomed without question, but probably not a snowballs chance in Yuma that will happen.

BYU is a must. after that pick 3 from COLORADO STATE, CINCINNATI, MEMPHIS, or ECU, USF, UCF, UConn

Boise State - No Houston - No La Tech - No

Brett McCabe 4 years, 5 months ago

Your argument for 16 makes a lot of sense. Two 8-team divisions also might actually reduce travel for all involved. It's not really a conference in the traditional sense, and it will break apart in a moderate wind because there will be no traditions but, given the fact that the Big 12 has done virtually everything wrong, this is probably the best way forward.

If you are adding BYU plus-3, I would think a Florida presence is a must. That leaves two: Cinci/Memphis makes geographical sense, so that makes four. I'd actually prefer leaving out BYU, take both Florida schools, Memphis and Cinci. You get some TV's, you seriously open up Florida and you get some geographical logic.

Agree with your "No's". They offer nothing. Kansas should make Houston a hard NO. Leave them out, and leave some recruiting room in the state.

Bj Cassady 4 years, 5 months ago

We lost out when Louisville, Clemson wanted in. BYU is good, Go after Wyoming, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Air Force, Cincy, UConn. This is after all, all about money and TV sets. Miami wanted out a few years ago..

Kerry Davis 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Bj to a certain extent - 16 is the answer. Going to 12 still leaves the B12 behind in the race. Better choices: Memphis with Cincy and UConn for WVU, Central Florida and South Florida with TCU and Baylor, and either BYU or Colorado State with KU, KState, and ISU. More TV sets and athletes to recruit. FB - play two from each pod and three from your own - yes, 9 games but the competiton is diluted a bit. BB - play pod teams twice and everyone else once - 18 games, not as much imbalance.

Gray Grantham 4 years, 5 months ago

A 16 Team Conference could work IF FOX AND ESPN place their value at current levels. Not sure if Fox and ESPN would pay for it but it sure would be fun to see, going to 16 would leave out only two of the most probable candidates; BYU, Colorado State, Cincinnati, Memphis, ECU, UCF, USF, UConn.

Two 8 Team Football Divisions (7 divisional games and 2 intra-divisional games is essentially the same as the SEC, ACC and Big 10, eight game schedule in terms of how frequently you get to face your inter-divisional rivals.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 5 months ago

The Big 12 needs to look to add the University of Houston...absolutely would be the best move by far over BYU or Cincinnati.

As for Kansas remaining in the Big 12, I've become more and more suspicious that Bill Self would have no problems joining the B1G, along with OU. He would love competing agains MSU, IU, U of I, etc...and traditional rivals like OU and NU.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 5 months ago

No Texas teams. We've got plenty. This isn't the SWC.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 5 months ago

Houston is the 3rd largest US City with a large Alumni base and fertile recruiting grounds. Plus, I won't have to travel to see the Hawks play at-least once a year.

Michael Lorraine 4 years, 5 months ago

Two topics that really grab my attention, realignment and CTE. Wonder what happens to the former if the latter ends up being the demise of football as we know it.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 5 months ago

It's something I've thought about too. My guess is that we'll eventually lose a lot of suburban participation in football but I think, like boxing, football will always be a way out for a large group of kids. And I think that people will always watch it. By always, I think it's safe for a generation. Then? Who knows?

Jay Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

My bet is that football won't exist at all in a couple of decades.

Doug Wallace 4 years, 5 months ago

Please Pac-12 add the Big 12 teams Kansas ,Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State,and Texas Tech! Get us out of this lousy conference!Us 5 teams deserve better than this loser conference!

Brett McCabe 4 years, 5 months ago

I sometimes wonder if WVU regrets it's decision to join. A little patience and they'd have probably landed in the ACC.

Doug Wallace 4 years, 5 months ago

And who says the ACC may Not still go after WVU?They still are on their radar I Bet!

Jay Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

Why would a Power Conf want TTU or KSU?

Doug Wallace 4 years, 5 months ago

Why not TTU is Texas school and no LHN!

KSU ok football

Jay Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

So now teams who are in Texas, but don't have their own TV network or are "ok football" are power conference expansion material?

Patrick Bryant 4 years, 5 months ago

I can't stay up that late watching the Hawks play on the west coast.

Doug Wallace 4 years, 5 months ago

that is a dumb excuse really?So you want us to exist in this sorry conference with TCU and WVU because of you cant stay up late?Pathetic!

Jay Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

TCU and WVU are football powers. Didn't read the article?

Tony Bandle 4 years, 5 months ago

A little 3rd grade math. Take a pie, slice it into tenths, serve the pieces. Then, take the same pie, make it bigger, slice it into fourteenths. The pieces stay the same but more people get pie and it becomes a bigger party. Works for me!!

Add BYU, Cincinnati, the two Florida schools. Break up divisions to WV, the two FLs Cinn,KU,KSU,ISU with BYU, the two Okie schools and the four Texas schools as the other UNLESS the Big Ten calls, then screw it, adios Big 12!!!

John Fitzgerald 4 years, 5 months ago

I would love to see a Blue Blood Conference with KU, Duke, UK, UCLA, UNC, and Indiana. Then, add 6 football schools in Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, Ohio St, Michigan, and Texas. Obviously the 6 football schools could be changed up, but those are just examples. This would never happen though, mainly because a conference based on basketball doesn't make sense as football brings in the most revenue. This would be the ultimate conference though and imagine how awesome basketball season would be!

Blue Blood Conference

Kansas

Duke

UNC

UCLA

Indiana

Kentucky

Notre Dame

Alabama

LSU

Texas

Michigan

Ohio St

Brett McCabe 4 years, 5 months ago

Actually, kind of a cool idea. The marketing opportunities would be insane.

Paul Jefferson 4 years, 5 months ago

Grab one of the Dakota schools...they're lookin' to get recognized!

Stuart Corder 4 years, 5 months ago

If more revenue is the goal and a conference network is the consensus means to that goal, then wouldn't it make sense to add two teams - one from the Mountain Time Zone and another from the Pacific Time Zone? That would bring the Big XII back to 12 teams as well as make us the only conference, I believe, with at least one team in every relevant time zone.

There are a few teams that would be decent in both football and basketball. -

  • Boise St.
  • BYU
  • Utah

  • San Diego St.

  • UNLV
  • Stanford

Doug Wallace 4 years, 5 months ago

Dude Stanford aint leafing Pac-12 for the Little 12-2 B.S.

Doug Wallace 4 years, 5 months ago

So we want a team that is "Independent" in football oh yeah so we will have a team like the Texass Longhorns who have the LHN.Well BYU have their own channel and do not share revenue from tv football.That will go over well NOT!

Folks Face it we have never gotten over the loss of Nebraska,Colorado,Texas A&M and Mizery!

And that Moron Bowlsby does not help one bit! He is dumber than horse manure!

Aint getting any better! The more they do the more things get screwed up!

Please Pac-12 take the good 5 schools from the Big 12 Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Texas Tech!

Jay Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

B1G adding Kansas is the best case scenario.

Doug Wallace 4 years, 5 months ago

Pac-12 is.They are run the same way with Ohio State and even Mishigan and Michigan State calling all the shots! NO WAY TO the B1G!

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