Tom Keegan: If Big 12 expands, Florida is the place

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The smart money says that status quo will prevail at expansion discussions among Big 12 presidents/chancellors and athletic directors next week in Dallas.

A 10-team conference makes the most sense in part because there aren’t two schools interested in joining the Big 12 that could do anything but dilute the quality of the conference. As for the long term, there is a duo worth studying intensely to see if their addition could lead to exciting growth for the conference.

Neither South Florida nor Central Florida in tandem with a school outside the state of Florida could generate much of a buzz. But bring them both into the conference several years down the road and things become interesting, very interesting.

Coming off an 0-12 season, Central Florida had a pivotal hire to make and turned a lot of heads when it landed high-profile assistant coach Scott Frost, a former Nebraska quarterback and NFL safety.

Frost left Oregon, where he had been an assistant coach for seven seasons, the last three as offensive coordinator at a program that prides itself on using speed and fast tempo to run up big scores.

Frost has had other opportunities but opted for the Orlando-based university for the same reason Central Florida should intrigue bigger conferences as a possible addition. He saw great potential for growth.

“One of the things that drew me to the job is I knew I could run a version of our offense that was practically identical to Oregon because we can recruit that type of player here,” Frost told USA Today in a recent Q&A. “...In Orlando, Florida, there (are) fast guys in high schools in every direction in close proximity that are already running systems in high school that are similar to this and should want to play in it.”

South Florida is in Tampa and has similar recruiting advantages. The density of population, as compared to many of the college towns that make up the Big 12, would give both Florida schools a shot at making up ground on schools with richer traditions.

The chance to play against giants such as Oklahoma and Texas, which would grow even bigger in the eyes of recruits once they play a game every year in Florida, would increase the chances of the two schools landing big-time recruits.

Big cities translate to big numbers in the all-important television-sets category. Nielsen ranks Tampa-St. Petersburg as the 14th-largest Designated Market Area in the country, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne as 19th. Interesting, very interesting.