Last week, we discussed extensively Big 10 expansion, and what it could mean for the Big 12. While any action by the Big 10 is probably at least a year away, and there's no certainty that they are even interested in poaching Missouri, we should waste no time getting together a contingency plan in case that happens.
In my first post last week, I discussed several schools that have been bandied around as possible replacements should Missouri leave. In general, I dismissed each school as an inadequate replacement for what Mizzou brings to the table, especially in terms of TV markets. Despite my thousands of words, a certain group of fans believes that Colorado State, TCU or Houston would be more than serviceable replacements. Given the corporate cliche that if you're not a part of the solution, you're part of the problem, I decided I should dig a little deeper, get a little more creative, and offer up some real, concrete solutions for this conference. Hit the jump to see my suggestions.
CSU-Pueblo: Nestled in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado, this campus boasts 5,000 undergrads in a rapidly growing town of 100,000. Don't be thrown by the fact that the Thunderwolves are Division II. Their football team went a respectable 7-4 last year in the competitive Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and was top-10 nationally in attendance. Despite its location in a relatively northern climate, the CSU-P baseball team begins this season as a top-40 squad. And don't forget about the men's basketball team, which is hitting its stride now at 3-0 in the RMAC, and 6-2 overall.
For those of you -- like me -- more concerned about TV sets, fear not. The Colorado Springs-Pueblo DMA ranks 91st in the nation. Pueblo is also twice as far from Denver as is Fort Collins, which means CSU-P expands the Big 12's TV reach without extending its geographical footprint. If Mizzou leaves for the Big 10, Dan Beebe and the Big 12's presidents/chancellors/athletic directors would be well-advised to take a long look at the Thunderwolves.
Nebraska-Kearney: While we're talking RMAC schools, we really should mention the Lopers of UNK. Located in Kearney, Neb., this is the premier sports program of the conference. Its football squad topped the league with a perfect 9-0 league record, and ended the season at 11-2 after a second-round exit from the Division II playoffs. But this isn't all about sports. All those Husker fans who have complained for years that they "don't have a rival" should welcome the Lopers with open arms, as they present a natural, ready-made, in-state rivalry.
In terms of TVs, the Lopers really would help the Big 12 lock up that pesky Lincoln & Hastings-Kearney DMA, ranked 106th in the nation. It's probably debatable whether that area is already saturated by Nebraska fans, so adding all those Lopers who hide their true colors for fear of retaliation at the hands of the Big Red Menace could mean a big boost.
Finally, this conference could really use a nice new watering hole with the departure of Columbia and its venerable Harpo's and other fine drunkeries. Remember, you can't spell D-R-U-N-K without UNK!
Chadron State: Yet another Division II team by way of the RMAC, this may be a bit of a reach, but hear me out. In football, you just can't top the Eagles. They are eight-time RMAC champions, which means they have quadrupled the number of conference titles the Cornhuskers have since the Big 12 was formed. Despite a 7-4 record this season, the extreme northwest tip of Nebraska is a factory for NFL talent, producing NFL star Danny Woodhead, who managed to slip under Bill Callahan's surefire recruiting radar. I guess that's easy to do when you're from North Platte.
Speaking of North Platte, Woodhead's capers in Chadron have likely locked up the 209th-ranked DMA for the Eagles for years to come. Now, to be sure, Chadron is a bit of a stretch geographically. It's 310 miles to the nearest major airport -- Denver -- but hell, we let Texas Tech into this conference, and until last fall, Lubbock was only a rumor to me. And yes, I realize they have an airport there, but good luck finding a direct flight there from anywhere outside of Texas.
See? I can do more than complain, I can suggest solutions, too.