According to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, the Big 12 is already considering future expansion. The Conference has already identified two schools as good candidates. The Big 12 Conference recently announced that BYU, Central Florida (UCF), Cincinnati, and Houston will be joining the conference to offset the losses of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC. In this article, we’ll look at a lot of candidates and who should receive an invite.
Memphis is an obvious strong candidate for a variety of reasons. They have performed well on the field for the last number of years including a New Year’s Six Bowl when they lost to Penn State in the Cotton Bowl following the 2019 season. Geographically, they are a great fit as Memphis is a bridge between the seven of the original members of the conference and then West Virginia and Cincinnati to the east. Memphis is also far enough south that it bridges a gap to UCF as well. They don’t have a stadium on campus but they do play in the Liberty Bowl which would make it one of the largest in the Big 12.
Boise State is the other frontrunner in any future expansion of the Big 12. In football, they have been an excellent winning program now for close to two decades. Their football program is going to be competitive from day one. Their stadium is small but due to the blue turf, it is known to give the Broncos a unique home-field advantage. Geographically, Boise is not in a great location relative to the rest of the conference, but Boise does help the conference as BYU is currently isolated. Boise State gives BYU a travel partner.
Air Force, Army and Navy
The three service academies are contenders. They have a ton of support nationally and will always have it. They would add value to TV contracts. The rivalry between the three would also be good as conference games. For the most part, they would be competitive with the other members as well. They’re not going to be contenders to win the conference very often but they do all play a very different style of offense that can be challenging to play against.
Some of the cons to this move are that Army and Navy’s other sports are in the Patriot League. The Big 12 reportedly wants to avoid football-only members, so would Army and Navy’s other sports make the move? In men’s basketball, Army has never made it to an NCAA tournament and for Navy, they last made it in 1998. For a conference that touts its prowess in men’s basketball, this would be a step backward.
San Diego State
A school on the west coast with great weather, a new football stadium, a solid and improving football program, and an excellent basketball program, yes, please! Who wouldn’t want to go to San Diego? It invades the PAC 12’s territory and they’d be great to fill the latest TV time slot. Geographically it would mean the conference stretches coast to coast (Orlando to San Diego) but if the Big 12 goes to 16 and a pod system of scheduling then those concerns are eased.
There’s a lot of reasons to like Colorado State as a Big 12 expansion candidate. The geographic fit is pretty close to perfect. Fort Collins is between BYU and the rest of the Big 12. Colorado State just built a brand new stadium on campus. The problem with Colorado State is their performance on the field and the court. Some reasonably doubt that they would be competitive and add strength and depth to the conference.
Ten years ago, USF would’ve been the slam dunk candidate from Florida. The Bulls had a good string of bowl games and success. Ten years later, UCF burst onto the scene and USF hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2018. As a result, UCF is moving to the Big 12 and USF gets left behind. Location-wise, USF would be another school in Florida and give UCF a travel partner and Tampa is a good media market. The potential of USF is high but the results on the field need to improve because USF’s football should be a lot better than they are right now.
Solid Options to Long Shots
You can fill these slots with pretty much every other school in the Group of 5. The schools I would consider solid options include Fresno State, Nevada, SMU, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, and UNLV. There is going to be a lot of movement over the next few years which includes among the Group of 5 Conferences and possibly FCS programs moving up to fill spots in Group of 5 Conferences.
If I was the person deciding on Big 12 expansion I would expand by four to get to 16. The schools I would want to invite are Boise State, Colorado State, Memphis, and San Diego State. For scheduling, teams are divided into four groups or pods of four.
West – Boise State, BYU, Colorado State, San Diego State
South – Baylor, Houston, TCU, Texas Tech
North – Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
East – Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF, West Virginia
In football, the new Big 16 would play nine conference games. Teams would face every team from their pod, plus two from each of the other pods. In basketball and other sports, teams would play every team in their pod twice and every other team once.
That is how I would run the Big 12. Did I get it right? Let me know if I’m crazy.
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