Yesterday, Oklahoma President David Boren told The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel that a decision on expansion for the Big XII conference would come this summer.
After being the victim of expansion by the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12, the Big XII’s future has been debated. One school of thought has held that the Big XII needed to expand to 12 teams so it could hold a football championship game. The championship game itself would bring in more money, and the teams playing in the game would have a better chance to play in the playoff, which would add more money.
The importance of the 11th and 12th teams for a championship game has been diminished with the NCAA’s ruling that 12 teams are no longer a requirement for a championship game. That ruling seemingly ended serious speculation about the Big XII adding schools, but yesterday’s announcement rekindled the possibility of new teams coming to the conference.
Why? Money. All conference expansion is about money. It is either about creating new revenue streams or protecting current streams. The Big Ten and SEC had the same model: create a larger footprint in order to sell a conference network. The ACC expanded for a different rationale: stability and protecting the strength of the league.
The Big XII would seem to be more akin to the ACC. It doesn’t have a conference network that would benefit from a large footprint, and the existence of the Longhorn Network all but precludes the possibility of a network in the future. Any conference expansion would need to provide more money or protect the existing money. Without an obvious new source of cash it would seem that stability is the goal.
Who? The American Athletic Conference or a few others. In the American conference there are Cincinnati, who Oklahoma would support, UConn, who has wanted back in a major conference since the dissolution of the last incarnation of the Big East, and SMU, a school who once had the biggest of big time football. Schools like Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and East Carolina all harbor aspirations of upward mobility. Outside the conference Boise State and BYU are often floated as possibilities.
Defend? It has long been speculated that 16 teams is a natural size for a conference. The ACC sits at 14 or 15, depending not he sport. The Big Ten and SEC each have 14. The Pac-12 has … twelve. If any of these last three conferences decided to expand the Big XII could be a target. Geographically it is the only conference that makes sense for the Pac-12 to target, and it is contiguous with the SEC and Big Ten. Adding teams could be
Expand? On balance there isn’t a mandate to expand. There’s no slam dunk candidate who would bring in a great deal more money. There are schools who fit, but is the expansion going to bring long term stability? That’s the question. Apparently we’ll have an answer this summer.