David Ubben over at ESPN.com has some interesting quotes from the Big 12's newest athletic director, Oliver Luck of West Virginia:
"My recommendation would be to look long and hard at moving up, whether it’s to 11 or 12, particularly when you look at how big the SEC is, how big the ACC is going to be, the number that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 are at," Luck told ESPN.com this week. "I think it would be wise to take a long hard look at that because there is some strength in numbers."
That's interesting to say the least. For one, the Big 12 is a conference that had to somewhat scramble to save itself in 2011, as Missouri and Texas A&M took off for the SEC. However, that scramble is not the biggest reason this comment should make your ears perk up. The reason this comment should raise eyebrows is because, simply put, Luck is saying the exact opposite of what the Big XII wants to do.
Did Luck not get the memo? Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas found a happy accord with nine of his schools as he came out in October and said no further expansion was on the horizon. In January, in West Virginia no less, Neinas reiterated the point about staying at 10. Surely Luck understood that 10 is where the Big XII feels comfortable. Ten is what their rumored new mega-television deal is based upon. Ten is where they want to be.
If Luck thought he could come in and "shake things up" with his rhetoric, he is likely in for a rude awakening. The Big XII knows extinction far better than any of the other BCS conferences. They sacrificed the SWC to form the league in the '90s, extinguishing that conference. They faced their own extinction not too long ago. In short, extinction is not something that scares them.
Would it make sense for the Big XII to go back to 12 teams?
What does scare them, or at the very least seems unappealing to the conference's two power brokers, is the prospect of a Big XII Championship Game. They don't want it.
At 10 teams, the league boils down to round robin play, and their champion wraps up at 12. Not 13 games. Not a rematch that they might lose. Not a nail-biter or another chance for their star player to get injured. Not a game in awful weather that gives the underdog a victory. No, 12 regular season contests and they are done.
That's what the league wants. That's what Texas and Oklahoma want. It is a clearer path to the BCS Championship, and right now that's what the best teams are looking for. With what seems like an inevitable move to a four-team playoff, the 10-team format again provides an easier route.
Perhaps Luck forgot all about this with the whole spring ball thing going on. Maybe the West Virginia AD is still thinking in Big East self-preservation mode. If the Big XII had wanted to get back to 12 teams, they would have done just that. Barring a massive change in the philosophies of the power brokers, this suggestion from Luck is definitely falling upon deaf ears.