Big XII Expansion Update
A few weeks ago, we had some discussion regarding relegation and how the NCAA might look with relegation. And then we discussed the purely hypothetical–even absurdly hypothetical–circumstance of which school is each conference’s weakest link. Then we took the absurd one step further and talked about conferences swapping schools. We thought we were done. Little did we know that the Big XII would jump back into the discussion… with Oklahoma seemingly parading itself to other conferences and news that five Big XII schools may have raised their skirts for the Big 10 to look at several years ago. All in all, the Big XII seems particularly unstable. What does that mean?
The Confidential is already on record saying that a Big XII two-team investment into Florida for USF and UCF would be the worst scenario for the ACC. Frank the Tank has tossed around the idea of Houston as a candidate. And the normal suspects of BYU, Cincinnati, Memphis, Tulane, and UConn are thrown around. But all of that assumes that the Big XII is going to shift from 10 to 12 teams. What if the Big XII first goes back to eight teams–by losing, say, Oklahoma and Kansas to the Big 10. After all, why would the Big 10 NOT want to add an elite name in each major sport?
Just picture the Big 10 at that point:
- Southwest: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa
- Northwest: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern
- Northeast: Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana
- Southeast: Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers
This is the dreaded–separate OSU/Michigan scenario. But it is regionally appropriate. It also ensures that there are three elite football schools on both sides of the East/West divide. And that assumes that only one of Penn State and Michigan State are elite. Meanwhile, basketball is similarly strong, with Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State anchoring divisions, with Indiana, Maryland, Illinois, and Oklahoma somehow being relegated to the second tier. When Iowa and Purdue are your 9th and 10th best programs, that is not too shabby. So… do not think that this is impossible for the Big 10 to desire.
In any event, this discussion was about the Big XII… so where does it go in THIS particular scenario. Well, there is always a chance of further defections. But would the SEC really want Oklahoma State and Kansas State? Do they need such fodder? Not really. Kansas is Missouri’s rival…and it is difficult to envision the SEC wanting Kansas (although a Kansas/Kentucky duo would improve the basketball rep a bit). Texas does not want the SEC. And why would the SEC want Texas Tech? Baylor and TCU are interesting to some extent, but adding two private schools does not seem like the SEC’s M.O. And West Virginia is nice, but nowhere near nice enough to justify expansion for expansion’s sake. The ACC could offer Texas a Notre Dame-type deal, but that would leave Texas Tech, Baylor, and TCU dangling–which would not please most of Texas. The Pac-12 might have wanted a four-team block of the Big XII, but with Kansas and Oklahoma off the table, it becomes difficult to think of a four-team addition that would placate the academic, secular side of the Pac-12. The Big XII adding schools at this point would seem more likely.
And then it becomes which direction to go. At that point, the Big XII would have to be worried about revenue and brand. The only real solution would be to take Cincinnati, USF, and UCF. And then Boise State. Unfortunately for UConn, there is just no way to justify an all-sport membership. If there is going to be a geographical oddity, it should be for football. This also makes scheduling a bit easier with two football divisions, which is certainly the norm:
- North: Boise State, West Virginia, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Kansas State
- South: Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, USF, UCF
Then, for scheduling purposes, each team would play its division, plus three more teams in the other division. Every North team would get three games against Texas and Florida schools. If Texas, Florida, and California dominate the football recruiting scene, this would allow one conference to have multiple teams in both. Only the SEC has one school in each (Texas A&M and Florida). In a world where Baylor and TCU finished 5th and 6th in the playoff voting, with Texas and Boise State also hanging around, this is still a very nice football conference. And Ohio and Pennsylvania are right there too (Cincy/WV) for recruiting.
Meanwhile, the basketball could just be one large conference. No real elite schools, but still a lot of good ones.
Is it the dream scenario for the Big XII? Of course not. That ship sailed when Texas A&M and Nebraska bolted.
And perhaps the conference would be better off getting ahead of the curve and jumping to 16 teams. Keep Oklahoma and Kansas, while adding the above four schools and UConn/Memphis. That would mean these divisions:
- South: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Memphis
- North: TCU, Baylor, West Virginia, Boise State, USF, UCF, Cincinnati, UConn
It could work. Any hoops conference with UConn and Kansas will be good. And a football conference with the current members, plus Boise State and inroads into Florida/Ohio can only be more relevant. But the more likely scenario is a more modest expansion from 10 to 12. The question that begs is whether that is enough to stave off future defections. If it is Texas and Oklahoma that head for the door, it is difficult to envision a viable Big XII under any scenarios.