Big 12 Expansion: Who Is In Your League?

With the Big 12 seriously considering expansion, keep your eye on these four schools – BYU, Boise State, Houston and Cincinnati – as commissioner Bob Bowlsby explores the league's options.

I'm a big fan of Samuel L. Jackson and so I always grin when he delivers his catch line on the credit card commercials, "What's in your wallet?" Now the line that needs to be asked and answered by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the Big 12 Board of Directors is, "Who is in your league?"
I know this, I've had a problem the last few years with the Big 12 just having 10 teams. I agreed with OU President David Boren that the league was psychologically challenged, or at least image challenged or mathematically challenged. Now, I may be confused again if the Big 12 goes right past the total the name implies and expands by four to 14 teams. 

Today's discussion around the conference footprint and with regards to the Big 12 declaration to expand was, what is the Big 12 looking for? One media member said he had heard they wanted just four teams to play football only implying they were looking to collect on balloon clauses in their television contracts. In other words, just get the money. I can't believe that unless like an old west group of bank robbers they are set to divvy up the cash and then go their separate ways rather than sit down in the future and negotiate another television deal as the Big 12 Conference.

I prefer to take David Boren's words for it when he outlined what the league wanted in expansion partners during the teleconference on Tuesday.

"Well, as I said a while ago, we're not looking at any one factor," Boren explained. "Obviously we're look at the strength of the athletic programs, their competitiveness. We're looking at the fan base; we're looking at access to media markets. And also we're very much looking at the reputations of these institutions for integrity. We're looking at the academic standards of these universities, the level of research and teaching at these institutions.

"So we're looking at a whole composite of factors not just any one factor," continued the chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors. "So it's really impossible to single out any one. All of those things will come into play and we'll be able to look at, say, a range of how these universities compare, those that have expressed interest to us, how they compare with each other in all of those categories. And we're very seriously concerned about all those categories, because we obviously stand for athletic competitiveness, winning in the right way. We also stand for academic excellence. When we use the term student-athlete, we use that very seriously and that's just not a slogan."

I'm not sure I can find four schools that can stand up to Boren's standards, but I will try. We all know the candidates: Houston, BYU, Cincinnati, Boise State, Colorado State, Memphis, Connecticut, South Florida, Central Florida, East Carolina, Tulane, and any other group of five school that can get their name in.

An administrator at a Big 12 school once told me that when expanding look for schools that do things the way you do. Compete like you do, have facilities like you, spend money like you, draw crowds like you do, and if you find that then ask them to join. 

There are issues like their own network and Sunday play, which they don't do, but BYU is the closest thing to a Big 12 school out there. They are very close in a lot of key areas. I'll start with BYU, whose athletic director Tom Holmoe was quick to issue a statement on Tuesday about the opportunity. 

They'll need a partner out west. While Boise State isn't in a population center they have established an identity and they have a good name in football.

Now coming back east, I know the Big 12 football coaches want no part of Houston, but it's a natural. The University of Texas also doesn't want Houston back in the same league as they remember how Houston came in and took advantage once they were in the old Southwest Conference. Houston is the hot school and the Big 12 needs to take advantage of that.

Bowlsby said we are looking for family members that will help make us stronger and we can help make them stronger.

Finally, I think Cincinnati is in because I think Boren likes the Bearcats and we all know they have campaigned for this as hard or harder than any school.

Boise State

Now with those four schools in, it won't be what's in your wallet, but how much is that check.

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