Even as things change, it's more of the same with Big 12 expansion talk
I’m as interested as the next guy in seeing exactly what happens with all of this Big 12 expansion talk, chatter that makes the possibility of new schools joining the league seem more and more real every day.
Wednesday, news surfaced across the country from various Big 12 expansion candidates who made it known they were officially no longer being considered by the Big 12 Conference.
My question is this: Did you really have to let us know?
With all due respect to all of these institutions, which surely have some wonderful attributes and attractions, I’m not sure that very many people out there actually thought or even considered that you had a chance of joining the Big 12 in the first place.
That’s not to sound snobby, but did anyone actually think that East Carolina, UNLV, New Mexico, Boise State, Arkansas State, Northern Illinois or even San Diego State truly had a shot at getting in?
If those schools were real candidates — which they weren't — the Big 12 would’ve done better to just shut the doors, sell off the remaining 10 members to the four other Power 5 conferences for cash and then use the money to take the Big 12 administrative staff on the mother of all year-long cruises.
Those seven schools mentioned above, according to a report from ESPN.com, were the schools that were told this week that they were out. Some of them decided to send out press releases or hold news conferences and others simply let the dream die quietly.
I’ve got nothing against any of those schools and actually think each one has a lot going for it. But the Big 12 simply cannot — and obviously will not — add any school as a full-time member because it is located in a nice climate or has a short history of world-beating football success or is close to other relevant schools in other conferences.
This is too big of a decision and too much is at stake. Heck, even the dozen or so schools that remain in the hunt for a possible invite still leave more than a little to be desired, which is why the idea of the Big 12 staying put at 10 teams remains in play, even if it’s not the most likely outcome.
At this point, there are more than a few people out there who believe that adding two teams — most likely two of the trio of BYU, Cincinnati and Houston — will be the way the Big 12 goes. And the time is coming when we will find out — one way or another.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby continues to explore and vet candidates and that same ESPN.com report indicated that Bowlsby and the Big 12 would like to make a final decision on expansion by the next board of directors meeting scheduled for Oct. 17.
Therein lies the one key thing to remember about all of this: It’s the board of directors and university chancellors and presidents who ultimately will make this call.
Remember the last time conference realignment was so hot? Back then, you heard athletic directors from just about every Big 12 Conference institution speaking their minds, sharing their thoughts and even offering thinly veiled threats whenever someone stuck a recorder in their faces. Missouri’s Mike Alden. Texas’ DeLoss Dodds. Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione. Heck, even athletic directors from Kansas State and Baylor and Iowa State had little problem sharing their thoughts.
Not this time. If you notice, you’re not hearing much of anything from any of the conference athletic directors and that’s not likely to change any time soon.
That’s not to say the ADs don’t have a say in any of this. They do. But how much say and just how far that goes depends upon their relationship with their presidents and chancellors.
At KU, the relationship between Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and athletic director Sheahon Zenger always has been stellar. There is a great deal of mutual respect between the two and Gray-Little has a lot of faith in Zenger’s ability to run the athletic department while she offers guidance and a sounding board for any issues, questions or concerns Zenger might have.
That type of relationship works because both people have the best interest of both KU and the Big 12 at heart.
So now we wait.
While folks at UConn, South Florida, Central Florida, Colorado State, Air Force, SMU, Temple and Tulane join BYU, Cincinnati and Houston in continuing to try to convince Bowlsby and company that their school is the right one to expand with, everything remains up in the air and on the table.
By this time next month, we may be closer to a resolution. But we also may still be wondering if the future of the Big 12 Conference will include 10, 12 or even 14 institutions.
In short, the fun is just beginning. Still.