The rumors are swirling about the Big 12 and BYU being in discussions to bring the Cougars into the rebuilding conference. Texas AD DeLoss Dodd’s comments on the first Friday of February where he addressed the Lufkin Chamber of Commerce brought more attention BYU’s way when Dodd’s mentioned that further Big 12 expansion could target Louisville, BYU, and possibly Notre Dame.
Now that West Virginia and the Big East have reached a settlement which allows the Mountaineers to compete in the Big 12 for the 2012 football season, the attention has turned to other expansion candidates for the conference to return to the number the conference is named after.
Louisville and West Virginia were neck-and-neck in previous expansion discussions before WVU emerged as the favorite for expansion back to 10 members. University of Oklahoma president David Boren is one of the major proponents for adding Louisville after being lobbied to by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Louisville grad.
The Big 12, was hesitant to expand further during the WVU and Big East settlement issues, can now that negotiations between WVU and the Big East have come to a close which is good news for Louisville.
The other two universities seriously mentioned as Big 12 expansion candidates are BYU [obviously] and Cincinnati, which would help the Big 12′s push eastward.
Following the statements made by DeLoss Dodds, Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman had this to say about the addition of BYU:
“I was a big proponent of BYU last summer, but then I heard from all kinds of BYU people about how pleased the Cougars are with independence and how they wouldn’t join the Big 12 unless the terms were just right. I think that makes BYU a longshot. I think the Big 12 enjoyed the jubilation we saw in Fort Worth and Morgantown over TCU and West Virginia joining the conference. I don’t think the Big 12 wants someone who is lukewarm about the conference.”
More from Tramel, whose point is valid about BYU, and his thoughts on the consideration of BYU and Big 12 expansion can be read here. The Cougars were deliberate in their departure from the Mountain West and, should they choose to affiliate themselves with a conference, will more than likely be methodical in their negotiations.
Late last year, BYU AD Tom Holmoe had brief discussions with the Big 12 about joining before the conference invited TCU and West Virginia. There is a slight familiarity between the two but there are hurdles to jump before an invitation can be expended to BYU.
The Cougars offer a significant brand name and television market (being located 43 miles south of Salt Lake City) which increases its appeal to the Big 12. The considerable success on the football field and basketball court also factor into their attractiveness. However, they also take their commitments seriously, like the one they made to the West Coast Conference (WCC) following their secession from the Mountain West.
Cincinnati, on the other hand, seems like the optimistic girl hoping for a shot at the quarterback. The Bearcats would love to be added to the Big 12 especially if they are joining their Keg of Nails rival Louisville. Cincy offers a solid television market and a successful basketball program with an above average football program (one BCS bowl appearance at least).
They would also help the geography of the Big 12 by being a bridge of sorts, along with Louisville, helping fill the gap between West Virginia and the rest of the conference.
Now that the Big 12 knows what type of exit penalty Big East teams will face by seceding from the conference, they can now plan accordingly if they so choose to annex two teams. That is also if, IF BYU decides that independence is better than conference affiliation.
There is a logical division alignment should BYU (or Cincinnati) and Louisville join the Big 12.
Conference Records of Big XII Teams and Expansion Candidates
7. Texas Tech
9. Oklahoma State
10. Iowa State
5. West Virginia•
6. Kansas State
*TCU’s conference record in the Mountain West (1998-2011)
○BYU’s conference record in the Mountain West (1998-2010)
•West Virginia’s conference record in the Big East (1996-2011)
~Louisville’s conference records in the Big East (2005-2011)
When aligning the division three points should be kept in mind: 1) Oklahoma and Texas must be in the same division, 2) the divisions should be competitively balanced, and 3) each division needs equal access to Texas for recruiting purposes. Geography would be a minimal consideration considering how unbalanced the former twelve team Big 12 was before the defections started.
Using those guidelines the proposed divisions could be such:
The New 12 Team Big 12 Divisions
TCU (1) Texas (2) BYU (4) Oklahoma (3) West Virginia (5) Kansas State (6) Louisville (8) Texas Tech (7) Iowa State (10) Oklahoma State (9) Baylor (12) Kansas (11)
The competitive balance is tilted slightly in favor of the “North” division but not by much. Adding up the rankings of the “South” division you get 38, while the “North” division is 40.
BYU is a geographic outlier with all of the other teams in the Big 12 but by being in the “North” division it retains former Mountain West rival TCU while also providing another marquee divisional match-up with West Virginia.
If Cincinnati is the choice over BYU then just swap out the Bearcats for the Cougars in that division proposal which also makes that division geographically balanced as well.
Along with the divisional games, each team would have a permanent crossover game, just like is done in the SEC. Those would be Kansas State – Iowa State (Farmageddon), Baylor – Texas Tech, West Virginia – Oklahoma, BYU – Texas, TCU – Oklahoma State, Louisville – Kansas.
Two current rivalries (Farmageddon and Baylor-Texas Tech) were kept but the remaining four were created for TV purposes. West Virginia-Oklahoma, BYU-Texas, and possibly even TCU-Oklahoma State would be marquee games for a conference fighting to return some of its lost luster.
Some long-standing or former rivalries (Texas-Baylor, TCU-Texas Tech) would have to be put on a rotational basis in order to pave way for the premier television games. The only team without a big time football rivalry would be Louisville, however, the manufactured football rivalry could help to carry over some animosity onto the court between the two basketball powers.
Of course this is subject to change depending on what BYU does. If Cincinnati joins then most of the above schedule would need to be scrapped and then TCU would probably play Texas and Oklahoma State gets Cincinnati.
The future of the Big 12 is still murky and the conference could choose to stay pat at 10 universities but the demand for at least at least a 12 team conference could prove to be the incentive needed to expand. Hell, everybody is expanding to at least twelve teams, even the Big East, so what are you waiting for, Big 12?