Saddle on up for another ride on the Big 12 expansion wagon, because it’s leaving the station now on the lookout for two to four potential new members.
Yes, the seemingly never-ending discussions and arguments about whether or not the Big 12 should or needs to expand has yielded to the first sign the Big 12 will formally pursue expansion options. On Tuesday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced the presidents of the Big 12 have given him permission to begin negotiations with potential expansion candidates, a clear sign the conference has had enough bickering back and forth on the subject and tabled more than enough discussions to fill a restaurant. Now it is time to get down to the nitty gritty of hearing what potential expansion targets like Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and BYU among others have to say, because the phone lines to Bowlsby’s offices at the Big 12 headquarters are now open and expected to be ringing off the hook until the Big 12 settles on their final decision.
Among the decisions needing to be made first may be how many invites will be sent out to prospective Big 12 members? Oklahoma president and Big 12 board of directors chair David Boren said two or four teams will be considered, thus keeping the membership an even number to help keep a new division lineup evenly distributed as well. That is great news for Group of Five programs like Houston and Cincinnati, and perhaps Memphis, UCF and/or BYU. Or UConn. At this point, everything is on the table, geography really doesn’t matter, and the Big 12 is apparently willing to expand for the sake of expansion.
So, what does the ideal Big 12 candidate look like at this point? Boren put it out there, as schools and fanbases try to state their case for checking off each box possible.
Boren said looking at potential schools' fan bases, academic standing, television following, reputations.
— Kirk Bohls (@kbohls) July 19, 2016
The big question now is how the Big 12 will finally come together to decide which schools join the conference. Getting everybody in the Big 12 on the same page on almost any topic has been next to impossible in the past, which is part of the reason we have seen Nebraska bolt for the Big Ten, Colorado take off for the Pac-12 and Texas A&M and Missouri leave for the SEC. It would seem the new media deal between the ACC and ESPN helped encourage the powers that be in the Big 12 to decide more is better for the conference.
Does the Big 12 need to expand? That is debatable, but now for the first time since luring West Virginia and tCU to the fold, the Big 12 is actively on the prowl for potential candidates, and there will be plenty of Big 12 hopefuls lining up at the front door.