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Big 12 Roundtable: Conference Expansion?

Yes, this is a thing again, to the surprise of exactly nobody.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The second day of Big 12 Media Days was completely upstaged by a late afternoon meeting of Big 12 presidents. The result of this meeting is that conference expansion is back on the table. To be fair, the presidents did not greenlight expansion. Rather, the conference authorized Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to "actively evaluate" potential candidates.

The media narrative has the Big 12 reacting to the recent announcement of a new television deal and conference network for the ACC, and Bowlsby suggested the ACC news did have some impact. It's equally likely, however, that an exploration--as Oklahoma's David Boren called it--was suggested by the Big 12's consultant firms, and the conference just chose this week to pull the trigger.

Boren, who has been a de facto cheerleader for expansion in the past, suggested the conference would approach schools that have already expressed interest. We don't have an exhaustive list of expansion candidates yet, but Cincinnati, Houston, and Memphis have been mentioned in various reports.

Also, Bowlsby suggested an expanded Big 12 could come into being as early as 2017, which suggests that a team like BYU, not currently affiliated with a conference, could be a target as well. None of these names are new to us, and indeed, we  considered all these candidates (and others!) during Expansionpalooza 2016.

Finally, there was this bit of news on Twitter:

Take from that what you will. Either it's wizardry or old age, or Snyder being taken out of context, but it's out there.

So where does this leave us? What can we look forward to? Well, here at Bring on the Cats, we may not have all the answers, but TB, AMS, and yours truly did have a quick round table-style discussion, reproduced here verbatim for your reading pleasure.

AMS: To recap today's teleconference: the Big 12 Conference board unanimously voted today to have Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to get back in touch with schools that have inquired into possible conference expansion. OU President David Boren said that could be two or four additions. Boren said it is a step toward expansion, but is still an exploratory stage. What do you make of that?

wildcat00: First, it's clear that some schools have made serious inquiries into joining. Second, it looks like expansion is back on the table because of the ACC TV deal.

AMS: Yeah, Boren pretty much said teams have asked about joining. Enough that the conference could add four teams, if it decides that's the best idea.

I don't get the second part, unless the Big 12 wants to take another look at adding a conference TV network.

00: I think maybe the Big 12 does.  (Ed: Bowlsby's remarks suggest a conference network is not being considered).

AMS: Telling Bowlsby to do due diligence on other teams is the biggest thing, in my opinion. The conference must have at least casually vetted expansion candidates. So telling him to take another look and call them back sounds like expansion is more a matter of who to invite than whether to expand.

00: Also, Boren said revenue share for current teams will not be diluted by expansion.

AMS: That is a really intriguing point. It frees up the conference to seriously consider teams that aren't already big assets but could become real players with more exposure.

00: Right. Also, notably the Big 12 didn't vote to expand. They just authorized Bowlsby to do the appropriate due diligence. So it's still possible for the whole thing to crater.

AMS: This is the Big 12 Conference! It's never too late for the whole thing to crater!

TB: In the past, performing "due diligence" on potential expansion candidates has been code for "we're going to expand, but we're not sure who to add yet." I'm not sure that holds with the Big 12 because I don't trust the individual leaders to maintain the same mindset for more than 30 seconds, but it's at least possible.

I have no doubt that other schools have made inquiries about joining. Their athletic directors and university presidents should be fired if they haven't. If it's true that the media contracts have escalators such that new additions don't dilute revenue, then by all means, add teams. It won't make any difference when the GOR expires, but it might be fun in the interim.

AMS: I can't disagree with any of that. So if we think it's more a matter of who to add rather than whether to add anyone, who do you think the most likely teams are, and who do you want to see?

00: Cincinnati and BYU. Those are teams we should add. Who do I want? Nebraska and Missouri. In all seriousness though, I think Cincy and UCF are the best candidates.

AMS: I'd be fine with Missouri, but I'm OK with never seeing Nebraska again. The Huskers can remain a middling team in the Big Ten West with Minnesota and Iowa for all I care.

TB: I have a hard time determining the most likely, because I'm not sure what they value. New markets don't really matter, because we don't have a conference network. So maybe we're most interested in TV ratings and alumni base. None of these schools is likely lighting the world on fire in ratings, but UCF could be a worthwhile investment. BYU is the other obvious candidate here, then probably Cincinnati.

If it were up to me, then I'd add Houston and Colorado State.

00: I think Colorado State is a geographically sensible addition, and I'd be ok with Houston too.

AMS: I'm disappointed, wildcat00. I was sure you'd be indignant over lumping Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa together.

00: I can't argue with "middling," even if I don't care for the company, lol.

AMS: Bowlsby said there could be additions in time for 2017, which makes me think BYU is near the top of the list, since they don't have a football conference to get out of, and I don't imagine the WCC has much leverage to keep them for other sports.

As for who else is likely, I don't know. If I was all-powerful, I'd kick Baylor to the curb and add Houston, Missouri, and Louisville. But that's extremely unlikely to happen, so I'll say Cincy and Memphis. I'm a sucker for geographic continuity.

TB: Expansion seems likely for one simple reason: having a CCG without divisions is stupid and everyone knows it. Beyond that, there's no good solution for dividing up the current conference, and you're guaranteed a rematch. Look at the discussion yesterday at media days. Bowlsby seemed totally lost on how the CCG participants would be chosen, which tells me they haven't spent much time thinking about it. Probably because they intend to get to 12 and have real divisions.

So, what do you make of today's news, and who do you think the Big 12 should add, if anyone? If former Big 12 members really want back in, who are the likely prodigals? Tell us in the comments below!