It’s that time of year. Football season in the books. Basketball season completed. Media days still a couple of months away. We all know what that means.
For what feels like the umpteenth year in a row, the conversation for the Big 12 during May and June is focused once again on expansion.
Is it necessary? What schools should make the cut? Should a conference network be set up? Conference championship game?
As more and more questions get asked, you start to realize that there simply is no easy answer. There is no quick-fix. This is going to be a process, a long one.
Oklahoma president David Boren has been at the forefront of these conversations for the last several years and was back at it last week at the Board of Regents meeting in Norman.
His tone, this time, was a bit different. Instead of defiance about the future of the conference, Boren was more about planting the seeds of how to salvage the conference and then strengthen it going forward.
*Add a Big 12 network
*Expand from current 10-team format
*Add conference championship game
It was revealed last week that not all of the Regents at OU are onboard with the prospect of expansion. From an outsider’s view, OU reaching the four-team college football playoff and Final Four in basketball in same year is an indicator everything is going just fine.
But there’s no guarantee that will ever happen again. And there’s no guarantee that had Stanford not lost a second game if a one-loss Big 12 conference champion in football would have earned the right to reach the playoff.
The term psychologically disadvantaged coined by Boren has sort of been tossed to the side, replaced in favor of things like a 13th game and what it means toward making the playoff.
So if the conference is going to expand, who are you going to add? Boren said last week more than 25 schools have inquired about expansion.
There are a number of schools you can accept at this point, but if the Big 12 wants to get it right, it’s time to head east.
The conference undoubtedly dropped the ball when the Big 12 didn’t do everything it could to secure, schools like Louisville or Florida State, opting to stick with the status quo.
That didn’t work, but with the conference taking West Virginia later, the clear option is simply to stick in that area.
As much as it would be fun to see a group from Morgantown head to Provo, Utah, and play at BYU, it wouldn’t be fair to anybody. Not for West Virginia to make that trip and not for BYU to return the favor.
But when you look at expansion, and my background, recruiting has to come into play. The door needs to open to a bigger recruiting ground.
Does Colorado State add to your base? Or a Connecticut?
The answer is…
The Bearcats have shown the ability in both football and basketball to be competitive on a consistent basis. There have been ebbs and flows with just how good the program has been, but the support is there from the program.
Memphis, for years, has been a hotbed for basketball, but the Tigers have got it rolling here lately in football. With the departure of Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech, it will be worth watching to see if Memphis can keep that success going.
Adding Memphis puts OU right in the thick of things in the SEC, adding Tennessee to its recruiting base. You won’t win every battle, but if you can win one or two battles per cycle because of an added presence in the area, mission accomplished.
The same can be said with Cincinnati. There are numerous Ohio ties at OU when you consider the Stoops brothers and Tim Kish but now there would be another layer.
Battle for Ohio would never be an easy one with Ohio State and Michigan dominating the landscape and Kentucky trying to emerge as a more consistent threat. But OU’s motto has always been, especially in its latest recruiting pitch, that it’s a national brand.
We’re still a long ways away from that point. Boren was quick to point out last week this needs to be unanimous and that means including Texas and that means making sure the Longhorns get everything promised to them regarding the Longhorn Network.
The goal is to have more answers by the end of the year. Until then, we’re bound to have more meetings about meetings. The conference has been one step behind for years. We’ll see if it can get it right from this point forward.