Sunday, July 31, 2016


Tom Keegan: Ranking potential Big 12 suitors


Versatile entertainer Justin Timberlake made news from his Twitter account (@jtimberlake) by lobbying for the inclusion of Memphis in the Big 12. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has thrown his support to Houston. Central Florida athletic director Danny White insists the Knights are a “monster” waiting to take up permanent residence in the national rankings once unleashed in a big conference and armed with all the advantages that brings.

It’s a lot for Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to take in, so we’re here to help, as always. I thought it would be fun to rank 11 suitors and one blind résumé from a Big 12 school, 1 through 12, in four weighted categories and see what the numbers say. This is not meant to reach a definitive conclusion, rather to serve as a starting point for discussion on the relative merits of the many suitors.

The categories and weight they carry in the formula: location (37.5 percent), Nielsen designated market areas (25 percent), average football attendance in 2015 (25 percent), academic ranking (12.5 percent).

The geography category does not take into account convenience of travel, such as contiguity to a major airport, direct-flight availability, etc. It merely is a latitude/longitude measurement, based on how close each candidate is to the geographic center of the current 10-member Big 12. I determined that center by calculating the average latitude and longitude of the 10 members, rounding to the nearest tenth of a degree and finding a city closest to those figures, which worked out to 36.0 degrees North, 95.4 degrees West. Wagoner, Okla. — population 8,622 and 42 minutes southeast of Tulsa by car — take a bow. You are the geographic center point of the Big 12, at least until expansion moves the pin to another spot on the map.

My dream calls for nationally televised debates to take place in Wagoner for the top five in these rankings. The six schools in the JV debate can find a location with a smaller, more remote stage than Wagoner.

The scoring rules for the rankings: Twelve points were awarded for first in a category, all the way down to one point for last. In the location category, the number was multiplied by three, by two in the attendance and market-size categories, by one in academics.

One clarification: In the location category, if schools were within 25 miles of each other in terms of distance from Wagoner, it was considered a tie. Interestingly, four schools were that close to each other: Central Florida (1,190 miles from Wagoner), East Carolina (1,202), South Florida (1,207), Brigham Young (1,214). So they each received an equal share of points allotted for places 7, 8, 9 and 10.

The final standings, counting backward with point total in parentheses: 12. Boise State (18), 11. UConn (41), 10. East Carolina (43.5), 9. Central Florida (46.5), 8. Tulane (47), 7. South Florida (47.5), 6. Colorado State (53), 5. Cincinnati (59), 4. BYU (61.5), 3. Iowa State (65), 2. Memphis (67), 1. Houston (75).

The fact that Iowa State grades out higher than all but two of the hopefuls might bum out advocates of Big 12 expansion, but the counter argument is that by joining a Power Five conference, schools recruit better and steadily grow into football programs that draw bigger live and TV crowds.

University executives and athletic administrators never would agree to nationally televised debates, wherein candidates state their cases, because the subject matter is far too grave. They believe such TV shows should be saved for less-important matters, such as, oh, for example, selecting the next president of the United States.

Too bad, because the debates surely could draw big ratings and even bigger bucks for a conference that already cuts members an annual $30 million check, needed funds for the ever-expanding Kansas athletic department.

Former college football players now working in the media — Kirk Herbstreit (Ohio State), Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard (Michigan) and Jason Whitlock (Ball State) — could grill one representative from each school and try their best to get them to trash each other in a debate format.

The president from each university could select himself, an administrator or a famous alum to represent the school in the debates. BYU, for example, might want to put experienced debater Mitt Romney in front of the cameras to state the Cougars’ case. Or BYU might opt for an alum with more charisma than Romney, such as actor Jon Heder, who so masterfully played the title role in “Napoleon Dynamite” and could stay in character during the debate. Cincinnati could counter with alum George Clooney.

Instead of an entertaining debate, it all will be handled behind the curtain and explained with boring quotes at a news conference.

So which schools will win the Big 12 derby, and when will it happen? Multiple reports indicate the Big 12 wants to finalize expansion plans by Sept. 2, the open of the season, with the idea of adding schools for the 2017-18 school year.

Houston is an absolute lock, the second school a much tougher call.

BYU has a winning tradition and a national fan base, but I don’t sense an appetite from Big 12 members for heading that far west. A conference that spans three time zones lacks focus, identity. The Pac-12 seems like a better fit for BYU at some point.

My guess is Memphis and Cincinnati are neck-and-neck for the second spot behind Houston, and Colorado State plays the role of dark horse. At first blush, I like the idea of Memphis better than Cincinnati. Central Florida and South Florida, either both or neither but not one or the other, could enter the race if the Big 12 decides to expand to 14 schools and understandably can’t resist the temptation to add two huge TV markets.


Robert Brock 6 years, 1 month ago

Houston will give the conference a commuter nose-picker. Just what the Big 12 needs!

Doug Wallace 6 years, 1 month ago

For my opinion since it is election year funnily I actually I am reminded of a old Richard Pryor Movie Brewsters Millions and to sort of quote from the movie in terms of these crappy expansion teams,everyone should just Vote None of the Above!

Tom you got to know Pac-12 WOULD NEVER TAKE BYU! They do not accept religious schools in ever!

The best schools for the Pac-12 that would be great fit would be YES Our KU Jayhawks in addition Oklahoma Sooners, Kansas State WildCats,Oklahoma State Cowboys, and Texas Tech Red Raiders would be a great fit for Pac-12.

Theses bottom feeder lousy teams WILL NEVER REPLACE Colorado,Nebraska Texas A&M or Mizery!

Like I said previously Both Kansas Schools KU, KSU, along with Both Oklahoma schools OU OSU and Texas Tech need to join forces and all 5 of them join the Pac-12! It be a great conference.Pac-12 would get Kansas City,Wichita,even some Missouri market, Oklahoma City and Dallas Market.Id love to have Colorado back as rival.I miss them the most of the 4 that left.Think of having not just the state of Texas recruiting also California recruits for the 5 schools.Including the states out west.

Dont give me the B1G thing either we would not get the recruits form the B1G it always tilt towards Ohio State and the Michigan schools maybe Look who usually win in the B1G football Ohio State or Michigan once in a while Michigan State or Penn State does something in Football.Basketball Ohio State Michigan State or Indiana.But they always favor Michigan or Ohio.Let Iowa State and U Conn have that conference! Those 2 have been begging and have had alot of interest there!

Im telling you people its the truth

Pac-12 you never know who is going to win it they have more parity More excitement they do not always have the same ol same ol teams every year.And they do all they can to spread the wealth and there is No Texas Longhorn or Ohio State kind of team dominating the conference.

Jay Scott 6 years, 1 month ago

Great column Tom!

While for some it seems easier to whine and rant about Big12 expansion and the quality of the conference and its potential new members, this is going to happen.

Houston, BYU, Memphis and Cincy.

Mike Barnhart 6 years, 1 month ago

Point: Directional schools and commuter schools, how embarrassing!

Counter point: Two more possible wins for KU football!

IF the KindaBig 12 adds two saps to bottom of the conference, I hope KU plays the MU card and starts BEGGING the legit power conferences for admission. But wait...we'd never be able to afford the exit fee! Ughhh, we're stuck with these fools.

Tim Browne 6 years, 1 month ago

I suppose if KU had a semi-legit football program, and better non-revenue sports you could get on your knees and maybe get a Big Ten slot. Sadly, you're decades from the first two points. So try to make the best of the Big XII, it's the best you're likely to do.

Titus Canby 6 years, 1 month ago

I agree with Mike. Directional schools and commuter schools de-value the conference. My vote is for BYU and Colorado State.

I do like Martin's BBQ Conference though. The logo - Fred Flintstone's car with the big rack of ribs on it. Big Boy Quonference. (Hmmm, maybe Big Boy is our mascot.)

Dirk Medema 6 years, 1 month ago

CSU doesn't devalue the conference? Wow!

Martin Rosenblum 6 years, 1 month ago

Memphis would "..Bring Sexy Back"! Memphis would....have access to those FedEx planes for quick deliveries within the conference. Memphis would....bring an NBA venue to the conference for teams facing the Tigers . Memphis would....give the B12(?) another team that OU and Texas could dominate in FB. Memphis would....bring a team with the initials U and M with a Tiger mascot back into the fold. Memphis would....allow ME to watch Jayhawk basketball at least once per year at home!!!

Martin Rosenblum 6 years, 1 month ago

There's also the whole BBQ side of the equation. THAT just might be a big enough factor to clench the deal. KC, Texas, Oklahoma and even West Virginia claim to have the best BBQ. With Memphis, the competition would really be spirited! I can see a new logo for the Big Whatever being a rack of ribs with each rib representing a different school.

Jay Scott 6 years, 1 month ago

Martin wins.

Big Pork Eating Infidels Conference.

Jay Scott 6 years, 1 month ago

WV BBQ involves slathering ketchup on several slices of bologna, putting them in a grill basket and setting it on top of a burning couch.

Martin Rosenblum 6 years, 1 month ago

Have you seen Huggins lately? They must be cooking something in West Virginia worth eating. Unless you're suggesting he's full of bologna.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 1 month ago

If the shoe fits, or maybe rather if the sweater doesn't, ...

Martin Rosenblum 6 years, 1 month ago

Not sure about the BPEIC vs Big12/14/16 Jay. But thanks for your vote for my input.

Steve Hillyer 6 years, 1 month ago

Or you can read this, pretty much sums up the attractiveness of all the candidates, not very.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 6 years, 1 month ago

Despite the BBQ angle, I doubt the conference would take Memphis over Cincinnati because Cincinnati would make a perfect travel companion and rival for West Virginia.
And, based on the resistance the networks are putting on the league, it appears like the league will likely just expand by two. I'd love to see Central Florida in the league and Colorado State, but I don't see that happening at this time.

Tim Browne 6 years, 1 month ago

Shame we didn't get Louisville. They, Cincy, Memphis and WVU make a lot of sense together...

Jay Scott 6 years, 1 month ago

Tim, who is "we"? You seem to alternate between trolling KU and including yourself.

John Gallagher 6 years, 1 month ago

None of schools mentioned add anything to Big 12,but in fact may make it weaker.If that is best Big 12 can do in attracting schools and do not seem even interested to gauge possibility of schools rejoining Big 12 and leave another Power Conference or for other schools to leave another Power Conference to join Big 12, they may as well stay at 10. No daring ,no risk taking. Boring. Big 12 always settles for what it can get instead of focusing all it's energy and dollars to get what it needs and really wants.

Jay Scott 6 years, 1 month ago

What does it really want? Which former Big12 school is interested in coming back? Who's looking to leave a Power 5 conference?

Last week you wanted Notre Dame. Heck Johnny, who don't you moan and whine because they aren't adding the Dallas Cowboys or the St. Louis Cardinals?

Humpy Helsel 6 years, 1 month ago

Tom, you have way too much time on your hands. While you are at it, think about staying out of the herb.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 1 month ago

TK - Huge props for using Lat - Long. Heck, I'd have given you credit for just using it in a sentence, much less calculating the geographic center of the conference. Interesting though that the university closest to the geo-center (Tulsa) isn't even given a token reference.

It does make me wonder about the weighting chosen, especially when there really is so little in the way of a compelling reason for weighting distance 3 times as much as academics.

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