We will know in a few weeks about the immediate future of the Big 12. What we don't know is what affect the Big 12's decision to expand or not expand will have on the rest of the college football world.
The Big 12 has put itself in a Catch-22 situation. If it moves to expand, it will hear that it it made the wrong move. If it does not expand it will be regarded as a conference that does not know what it wants.
With that in mind, we poked around and came up with 12 aftershocks which could be generated by a Big 12 decision. In no particular order, here's a list of people, institutions and conferences who could be affected once the Big 12 announces its intentions.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
1. The American Athletic Conference--Other than BYU (an independent in football), the AAC is the conference which will be directly affected by Big 12 expansion. Houston, Cincinnati, UConn, USF and UCF are all AAC schools still in the Big 12 expansion mix.
The least intrusive plan would be if the AAC lost only one school. Originally, there was speculation that as many as four schools could be moving, but that seems unlikely. Houston and Cincinnati are the front runners, if there is expansion.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has taken a "wait and see'' stance on what happens if he does lose some schools. If the conference loses only one school (a BYU-Houston scenario), it could simply play with 11 schools.
2. Houston--The school with the most to gain and the most to lose with Big 12 expansion. The Cougars have unveiled major plans to accommodate a move to the Big 12 and have overextended themselves financially in anticipation of getting the extra revenue a move to the Big 12 would generate. If the Big 12 doesn't expand or Houston is rejected, the Cougars will remain a Tier 2 program.
3. Houston football coach Tom Herman. Herman is the coaching flavor of the week. He is the front runner if LSU decides that interim coach Ed Oregeron is only a short term solution. He would also be the front runner if Texas makes a move to replace embattled Charlie Strong as its football coach. Houston officials already have put a boost in Herman's salary to $5 million (from $3 million) if Houston joins the Big 12. That might be enough to hold off LSU. But if Texas makes a move, choosing the Longhorns over Houston appears to be a lock. And if that happens, does Texas, which has publicly supported the inclusion of Houston to the Big 12, change its stance?
4. BYU--If you looked at it from a football standpoint, BYU remains the most attractive non Power 5 conference school available. Such is not the case. Social issues involving the school's viewpoints and mission have become overwhelming factors, changing the odds on BYU from favorite to long shot.
5. UConn--The Huskies plight is similar to Houston. The Big 12 looks like it is UConn's last chance to become a member of a Power 5 conference for the foreseeable future. If UConn is rejected or there is no expansion, the Huskies must decide if they want to remain as a full member of the AAC or make the break in other sports back to the Big East, which would put the future of football at UConn in doubt. The bottom line is that UConn can not really afford to stay as a full member of the AAC. They were paid almost $10 million dollars in television based revenue last season, but that total was supplemented by the AAC from exit fee money it got from schools when the Big East football broke up. That money will soon be paid out and the AAC could drop to $3 million per year.
6. The Big Ten--If the Big 12 does not expand, the long range future of the conference becomes a topic, particularly the future of the league's two biggest cash cows, Oklahoma and Texas. If there is no expansion, a move by the Big 10 to expand to 16 with the inclusion of Texas and Kansas from the Big 12 becomes much more realistic.
7. The SEC--Same as the Big Ten, but Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could be the targets.
8. The Mid-American Conference--If UC0nn does not move to the Big 12, but wants to leave the AAC, the MAC could be a landing area for UConn in a football only situation. The MAC has experimented with that before with Temple and UMass and it hasn't worked out. Adding UMass and UConn in football only is a possibility, since it would give the MAC an Eastern block of Buffalo, UMass and UConn.
9. UMass--UMass is playing as an independent in football. It is only a temporary arrangement as UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford shops for a conference. UMass hopes that the Big 12 takes some AAC schools and that UMass then would move up the AAC contender board as a replacement. But if there is no Big 12 expansion or the AAC does not replace teams or choose another school (ODU, Rice and Northern Illinois are possibilities), the future of UMass football becomes an issue. If there are no invitations coming, UMass football could very well disappear.
10. Bob Bowlsby--The Big 12 commissioner is the point man for expansion talk, but he makes moves dictated by the Presidents. Bowlsby has indicated he favors expansion. If there is a move not to do anything, Bowlsby can simply say he has had enough of a conference which has always been an outsider.
11. ESPN, Fox Sports--The two primary television outlets for Big 12 football. They have indicated they are not happy with expansion, which would cost them $20 million per school, feeling that the money is not worth the value of any expansion candidate. Sources in the Big 12 say the networks are pushing even harder against doing anything.
12. Big 12 schools not named Texas and Oklahoma--If the Big 12 does not expand and other Power 5 conferences move in to cherry pick schools, the future of the majority of the Big 12 schools is very shaky. Oklahoma State and Kansas could link up with Texas and OU, but there is only marginal interest in the remaining Big 12 schools.[/membership]