Big 12 Expansion Rumors Features USF

Conference re-alignment speculation have once again heated up, with the Big 12 at the forefront. Whether it's soon or down the road, USF must do everything in their power to make themselves a top consideration

USF is no stranger to the prospect of conference re-alignment. It was just a few short years ago where the Bulls were on hand to witness the demise of the Big East as a football conference and eventually land in the AAC, a “Group of 5” conference that combined refugees from the old Big East and former members of Conference USA taking a step up the proverbial college football ladder. With the 2014 college football season in the history books, the focus this week has been on the future prospects of the Big 12, the only “Power 5” conference not represented in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Several have pondered the expansion of the league throughout the week, with even USF being one of the schools mentioned.

This speculation over the Big 12 intensified on Sunday when both TCU (ranked number 3 the week prior) and Baylor (who beat TCU head to head) were jumped by the playoff committee in favor of Ohio State. Many cited the conference’s lack of a championship game with only ten members as the reason for the snub, prompting speculation on the possibility of the Big 12 to expand in the near future. Schools such as Cincinnati, Memphis, BYU, and UCF have been brought up as possible add-ons. And then there’s USF. Just like every other school mentioned, there’s certainly pros and cons to take into account when considering the school on Fowler Avenue. The school has newly renovated athletic facilities with inklings of an on campus stadium growing by the year. Tampa being one of the top fifteen TV markets in the nation would certainly bring millions of more viewers to the Big 12 product. Also, the possibility of adding USF and UCF in a package deal would give the conference a direct in roads to Florida’s fertile recruiting grounds. However, the Bulls are just entering a process of rebuilding their national image and brand. It’s no secret the struggles USF has faced over the past four years in fielding competitive, nationally relevant teams in football, basketball, and baseball, as fan attendance have steadily declined with the increasing subpar products and lack of interest.

In reality, the Big 12 will most likely pursue a waiver to play a conference championship game with only ten teams rather than overreact and add new schools anytime soon. However, history has indicated that whether it’s six, four, or even two years from now, the conference will eventually seriously consider expanding to 12 or even 14 teams. In the meantime, AD Mark Harlan and the rest of the USF athletics staff must be proactive and do everything in their power to put the Bulls in the right position as a desirable school before this happens. As the product on the field/court declined, fans watched idly as USF’s direct ties to a major conference came crashing down with the death of the Big East. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

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