The Big 12 has sent out its "preferred list'' of potential candidates for expansion and, as expected, it is filled primarily with American Athletic Conference schools.
Word has it that the Big 12 has sent a list of invitations to between six and eight schools, with the list including[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]Cincinnati, Houston, Connecticut and from the American as well as Brigham Young, an independent in football and a member of the West Coast Conference in most other sports are the front runners. Central Florida, South Florida, Memphis and two AAC schools reportedly are also on the list, although there is less certainty either Florida school is regarded as a prime contender.
Each of the schools is expected to meet with Big 12 officials, presumably in Dallas, within the next two to three weeks to make their presentations.
Once that is done, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and his staff are expected to prioritize the list down to the top two. Bowlsby is then expected to make his recommendation to the Big 12 Presidents, who will meet in Dallas in October to discuss the matter and possibly even vote to issue invitations.
There was some chatter of a growing sentiment, however, that the Big 12 Presidents will table any expansion talk for at least one year. Bowlsby can not assume that expansion is off the table and must proceed with an elimination process.
The main target for expansion, large or small (although a four-school expansion list seems unlikely at this time), is the AAC.
There had been several published reports that the Big 12 contacted as many as 18 schools about expansion, but it would appear the original list of AAC contenders has remained the front runners and that could actually be very short list of four or five schools when the interview and presentation process is over, with the Final two emerging.
AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco has followed the rumors and chatter with more than passing interest, but continued to maintain a "let's see how this plays itself out'' attitude before making any definitive decision on a course of action.
Speculation continued to swirl about who will emerge in this game of musical chairs. There was also continued debate on whether the invitations could be as football only members, a move that would be easiest for BYU and UConn, since they appear to have the smoothest path to accommodating a "football only'' move.
BYU simply needs to give up its football independence, while UConn presumably has a landing spot for its other sports in the Big East.[/membership]