It seems like the Big 12’s expansion plans are coming into focus following the sudden departure of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC this summer. The Big 12 prefer to add four teams with a special focus on BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, according to Max Olson of The Athletic.
The goal of adding four teams would be to bring the league back to its original 12-person alignment, with the four teams mentioned above joining together to fill some of the vacuum created as the two best programs in the world League (Texas and Oklahoma) the Big. dropped 12.
The Big 12 have just completed two days of meetings with conference decision-makers focused on future membership.
“After two days of consultation with the athletics directors of the consecutive members of the Big 12 conference,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Wednesday. “The eight ADs remain committed to promoting the Big 12 as one of the leading sports conferences in the country and look forward to working with our presidents and chancellors to build the long-term strength of the conference.”
What does that mean for the Big 12? Here are some potential benefits in deciding on your future membership.
Creation of presence in important TV markets
Adding the above four teams wouldn’t fill all of the void that Texas and Oklahoma have left. However, adding UCF would give the Big 12 a presence in the main Orlando television market. Cincinnati, meanwhile, would bring more of a Midwest footprint to mate with West Virginia. BYU would add the Salt Lake City, Utah market and an international following. Houston would of course help the Big 12 maintain a strong presence in Texas despite the Lone Star State’s most prominent team dropping out and the second most important (Texas A&M) dropping out in the final round of realignment.
While TV markets aren’t driving this realignment, big cities with passionate fan bases make a difference when it comes to which teams to add. It’ll give the Big 12 a nice portfolio to sell to potential distributors – both traditional and over-the-top streaming.
Maintaining a high level of competition
The four programs monitored by the Big 12 have had significant achievements as Group of Five members over the past decade. Neither of them have reached Oklahoma’s level in terms of college football playoff appearances, but they were as competitive, if not more, than the Longhorns.
BYU and Cincinnati have had an all-time great season. The Cougars ended 2020 11-1 with a No. 11 final rankings and produced the No. 2 overall selection in the NFL Draft, quarterback Zach Wilson. The Bearcats enjoyed an undefeated AAC championship run, trailing just behind Georgia in the Peach Bowl. Coach Luke Fickell is considered one of the top coaches in the country and will almost certainly be a top target for the power five schools once the silly coaching season kicks off.
UCF also did well as a college football juggernaut. The Knights had three straight seasons of double-digit wins from 2017-19, unbeaten in 2017, and won 12 straight games in 2018. Prior to that, Houston was the class of the AAC, going 13-1 and beating Florida State in the Peach Bowl during the 2015-16 season.
This high level of play is important when the playoff takes place with 12 teams. The current agreement provides that the six best conference winners will receive an automatic bid.
Build in recruiting benefits
If the Big 12 want to expand, this could also help the conference as a whole with recruiting. Moving to cities like Houston, Orlando, Salt Lake City, and Cincinnati would give every team at the conference a chance to play in front of a crowd of high school players in talented areas.
For example: Florida currently has 16 of the top 100 prospects in the 2022 class, according to 247Sports Composite, while the state of Ohio has four and Utah has one. That’s 20 of the top 100 prospects in the new states they are reportedly targeting in addition to the 15 already in the state of Texas.