Today’s rumor, if it is indeed only a rumor, comes to us from the Dallas Morning News podcast (y’know, Dallas. The home of the Big 12?). Guess what?
From the Dallas Morning News podcast. This seems... significant. pic.twitter.com/qIPOr6w7v7— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) September 13, 2016
If indeed the Big 12 decides this is a no go, even as they watched Houston single-handedly knock the entire conference out of post-season consideration in Week One (or perhaps because of this), they would be making a horrible mistake.
What the Big 12 does or doesn’t do is indeed outside of UDD’s umbrella, but the perceived quality of most Group-of-Five teams is very much under our umbrella-ella-ella, and we seem to know a thing or two more about that than these supposed professionals working for a major sporting entity.
Whatever the opinion, the most commonly held belief seems to be that BYU is a shoo-in (despite extreme geographical differences with West Virginia, and a fair share of political controversy), and UConn has any shot at all (small media market, even more remote from the core of the conference).
Any Underdog team is obviously not going to be playing at the Big 12’s level while they’re still in a Group-of-Five conference. Baylor was actually IN the Big 12 and didn’t play at that level for ten years straight. It’s not about what IS, but what COULD BE. And what could be in these schools you turn your noses up at, can be a lot better than what Lubbock, or Stillwater, or Manhattan, Kansas, can offer.
Don’t pretend you’re looking to grow your academic footprint, Big 12. You picked TCU and WVU because they kick butt at football (the former a little more than the latter). What other teams could kick as much butt if you poured Power Five money into them?
Media Market: Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN Statistical area (28th in the nation)
Brings in: Viewership in Ohio, Recruiting in Ohio
Record in C-USA (1996-2004): 52-55
Record in Big East/AAC (2005 thru 2015): 94-47
Reasons to bring them in: Great travel partner with WVU
Reasons to not: Even farther from the core geographic imprint than WVU, have to fight with the Buckeyes for recruits.
Media Market: Houston metro (5th in the nation)
Brings in: No one new, all of Texas is already watching the Big 12
Record in C-USA (1996-2012): 103-104
Record in the AAC (2013 thru 2015): 29-11
Reasons to bring them in: Huge media market, huge draw for Texas (and Houston) talent, huge airport for visiting teams and fans.
Reasons to not: Pulls media market and recruits from every other Big 12 team, would kill Tech and the Oklahoma schools in recruiting. Also traffic in that city is bad enough already.
Media Market: Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area (28th in the nation)
Brings in: SEC country. Goodness gracious, why would THAT be a appealing in a college conference? Also: basketball.
Record in C-USA (1995-2013): 81-143
Record in the AAC (2014-2015): 19-7
Reasons to bring them in: Unlike most teams on the rumored list, they fit the conference footprint. Exceptional basketball. Great music scene, to rival Austin.
Reasons to not: Poor academics, only in AAC for three years, Austin hates rivals.
...The Big 12 would be lucky to have any of these schools, and the resulting Power Five money would give them the prestige they currently lack, as has happened with West Virginia, Iowa State, and arguably, say, Texas Tech (number of Big 12 titles: Zero).
Even in that short list of current or eliminated candidates, you can see the improvement from simply moving up to enjoy the AAC’s exposure and TV contract. And while the Big 12 made noise about adding 4, then hinted maybe 2, why does either one or the other have to happen right away?
The AAC has said they may stay at ten if two schools leave, but the last three years of the Big 12 has shown why ten is not a good number, championship game or no. Look at what dividends the 12+ member conferences have seen, in national exposure and also actual money, in just a few years?
There are C-USA and Sun Belt teams ready to answer the call, not in 2016 or 2017, but years down the road. Louisiana Tech has finally started working on its future just within the last few years. Arkansas State is right there in the old SWC territory. Even NIU, stuck in the MAC for years, originally threw their hat in the ring when the Big 12 said it would take applications. Southern Miss didn’t apply at all, but how great would that have been?
Ready in 2016? Not a one of them. But if the Big 12 does add their two, and two more move up to replace them in the AAC or C-USA... who knows where they’ll be by 2025, when the current Big 12 media contract runs out?
If the Big 12 makes it that long without shooting itself in the foot— as they’re currently doing— we’ll all find out soon enough.