Before the Big 12 Presidents can make a decision on what road to follow regarding conference expansion, they need to have an idea of why they are making this move--if they make any move at all.
The problem here is that we are talking about Presidents and in terms of athletics they are often as clueless as they are careless, which is one of the reasons why 20 schools have been included in their potential new play group.
Cut to the chase.
This is all about football. Forget education, forget social issues, forget the political infighting that has developed in the state of Texas over the University of Houston.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
The best LONG TERM football commodity on the Big 12 wish list is BYU. The program has been solid for more than 30 seasons. It has a strong fan base. It has a national presence and it wants to be included. It has a history. It has a tradition. It has won a national championship.
It also has problems.
BYU is affiliated with the Mormon Church. There are social issues involved, ranging from the LGBT opposition, a ban on Sunday events and a campus lifestyle that has some restrictions.
The best way to deal with those issues is put the blinkers and ear muffs on, announce that BYU will be part of the Big 12 as a federated (football only) member and move on to the next matter, which would be the addition of a second school, which would make the Big 12 a 12-team, 2 division conference which can have a traditional championship game.
And despite some reports to the contrary, the issue of adding schools for football only IS NOT off the table. In terms of football, it is the cheapest and least complicated way of adding inventory.
If the Big 12 does choose BYU, it can name any of the other candidates, ranging from Cincinnati, to Memphis, to UConn to UCF to even Houston. They can join as full or federated members. It doesn't matter.
By doing this, the Big 12 will have accomplished its mission in the most efficient manner. It will have increased the conference's football profile, it will have expanded the geographic footprint of the conference.
Combine that with some aggressive non-conference scheduling and an unbeaten or once beaten conference champion will have a seat at the adult table when the selection playoff selection committee is making its Final Four choices.
But will the Presidents follow this path?
The growing consensus seems to be that they will not. BYU has too many outside issues, which then opens the gateway for the political infighting in the state of Texas about Houston, as well as the debate about who is the best of the rest among the other schools.
Presidents are more easily swayed by protests and public opinion polls than football coaches and athletic directors, who have a more bottom line attitude. That is one reason why they have slowed down the process and added to the candidates list. They seem more interested in not offending anyone than in getting the job done as quickly as possible.
Again, the Big 12 needs to stay focused on its mission. This is a FOOTBALL issue. Not diversity, not academics, not social issues.
Even television--Fox and ESPN--might soften their opposition to more teams, if the Big 12 were to announce that BYU and Houston would be the additions. Right now those look like ratings boosters.
Passing on BYU would automatically make Houston the popular choice since the Cougars are the best remaining football program being considered.
Choosing Houston could be fools gold. The Cougars are hot now because the program has rebounded under the direction of Coach Tom Herman. But what if and when Herman leaves for a job in another Power 5 conference or the NFL? The long term support base history for Houston football is shaky. Were it not for the political support from the Governor and the President of Texas, the opposition to adding still ANOTHER Texas school would be much less muted.
But the main goal here should be to add BYU, which would accelerate the process.
The word coming from various Big 12 outposts is that the time frame on this will slow down, with the late fall, early winter, a likely announcement date.
So be it. Let the foolish games of a rumor a day, of various criteria for admission, continue.
It is nonsense, it is unnecessary. Another season is about to begin and the future direction of Big 12 football could and should be settled, sooner rather than later.
It could be settled with one term: KISS. Adding BYU would be simple, but not stupid..[/membership]