Big 12 Expansion: It's complicated

Here's the latest in the world of Big 12 expansion.

A list of 6 schools was being seriously considered: Houston, BYU, Connecticut, Cincinnati, UCF and Memphis. But that list could shrink or change if the firestorm created by a Fox Sports report of LGBT opposition to BYU spreads.

The issue of whether to expand by two or four schools continues, but adding two has slightly more support.

In the next few weeks, each of the schools will be asked to present their case to Big 12 representatives, most likely at a meeting in Dallas (a hotel at the DFW Airport?). [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here. [/membership] [membership]

The target date for the new members remains the fall of 2017.

Votes on each school will be taken, with 8 votes required for acceptance.

That's the easy part. Here is where it gets complicated

Since it is an election year, it is no surprise that the issue of Big 12 expansion has jumped into the political arena.

One of the key topics of discussion--perhaps the main one--has been the status of the University of Houston. If this were just a football issue, the Cougars (at least at the present time) have enough credentials to merit consideration.

But it has gone far beyond that. The issue is the decision by the University of Texas to branch out with a 300 acre campus in Houston. That move was widely criticized and opposed by the University of Houston Board of Regents.

To quiet the Houston opposition, Texas is offering support for Houston's addition to the Big 12. But it was a non-football decision, spearheaded by UT Chancellor William McRaven and Texas Governor Gregg Abbott.

There is little enthusiasm for this move in the UT athletic department for a simple reason. Texas and the other Big 12 schools recruit the Houston area on a regular basis. So does Texas A&M, which jumped to the SEC a few years ago.

Houston, as part of the American Athletic Conference, doesn't have the same recruiting power in its back yard because it is part of a non-Power 5 conference. Joining the Big 12 will give Houston extra credibility it does not have now. The question being asked by the Big 12 schools is why should we give Houston another weapon (Big 12 membership) to recruit against us.

Whether Houston receives the necessary 8 votes depends on what deals are cut with the other Big 12 schools, particularly Oklahoma.

The issue of BYU was less complicated but also perplexing. No one argues that BYU would be a good addition for the Big 12 from a football and national exposure perspective. BYU has a national championship and has competed successfully at the highest level for many years.

The debate is whether to take BYU in all sports or just football. Normally this wouldn't be an issue. Full membership is better. But BYU, because of its Mormon affiliation has a No-Sunday compete rule. This is not a deal breaker. The Big 12 does not hold football or basketball games on Sunday. But there is Sunday competition in other sports. The issue can be resolved, but it just takes more work and planning.

A simpler solution would be to just add BYU in football. That would be for the Big 12, since as a football only member, BYU would not get a complete revenue share of the television profits. The debate among Big 12 members about whether to take BYU as a full or football only member continues.

Since expansion is solely a football issue, the easiest way for the Big 12 to make its move would be to simply add Houston and BYU and stop at 12. But that is regarded as short-sighted by the people who look at the overall television numbers. Adding Houston and BYU does very little to expand the Big 12's geographic footprint.

The latest issue of LGBT protests against BYU's social stances on several issues gives the Big 12 a reason to go in a different direction.

If BYU is eliminated and Houston doesn't get enough votes, the issue facing the Big 12 becomes even more complicated.

Which leads us to the next phase involving UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis and UCF. Any one, two or three of those schools would expand the Big 12's geographic footprint to new and potentially profitable areas. Cincinnati and UConn are the front runners in this group.

The Big 12 knows that if it does nothing, it becomes more vulnerable to being poached by the four other Power 5 conferences. Going to 12 schools will lesson that threat, going to 14 would diminish the threat even more.

If the Big 12 were really proactive in this, it could take a giant step to what many people predict will be the future of college football--5 Super Conferences of 16 schools who will break off in their own self-governing division of the NCAA.

Going to 16--adding BYU,or a school like Colorado State, if BYU is not part of the mix, Houston AND Cincinnati, UCF, Memphis and UConn could be a prototype of the future of college football.

In such a league, the Big 12 could have two eight team divisions. The Big 12 West would consist of Colorado State or BYU, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Kansas and Kansas State.

The Big 12 East would be West Virginia, UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF, Houston, Iowa State and Baylor . Teams would play 7 games in their division, 2 cross over games, and three non conference games as well as a conference championship game.

But those are all speculative issues. As I stated, it's a complicated process. But it is moving and right now the two main issues are fairly clear cut. Who wins the political battle over Houston and will how will the Big 12 deal with BYU??

Once those questions are answered, the process towards expansion will move rapidly. [/membership]

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