The Big 12's plans for expansion are down to three scenarios. According to sources familiar with the process, the league will hold its meetings with the 11 "candidates'' for expansion this week. But that number remains a smoke screen. The majority of the schools are on the list for political reasons created by the conference presidents.
The only serious candidates, who still have a chance to be part of a two school expansion plan are: BYU (football only) Houston (a mortal lock for one spot) Cincinnati, UCF and Connecticut.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
BYU is hanging on by the slimmest of margins because of the Presidents' reluctance to open themselves to controversy and protests because of the LGBT issues surrounding the school. If BYU could overcome that, the Big 12 will choose BYU and Houston, which would improve the football profile of the conference. But that seems a long shot possibility right now. UCF also remains a long shot, although it would appear to have a better chance that USF, which has had some academic fraud issues as part of its resume.
Barring a last minute surge of interest, the Big 12 is likely to pass on both Florida schools, although it will talk to both of them.
Houston became a lock after it's upset of No. 3 ranked Oklahoma on Saturday. Although there is reluctance in some quarters of the Big 12 to elevate a school sitting in the middle of prime Big 12 recruiting area, there is NO way the Big 12 could explain an expansion without including a school which beat the best team in its conference.
And that leaves Cincinnati and UConn as the most viable candidates. Cincinnati has worked the longest in securing a spot, but UConn has quietly emphasized its academic credentials and access to the Northeast television markets, particularly New York.
What the Big 12 Presidents must decide when they meet in October is whether they want to make a move to expand not only by numbers, but by a geographical footprint which will take them to the Northeast or whether they want to simply put any expansion plans on hold for at least one more year.
Three schools, two spots, one decision on whether to expand or not expand.