Big 12 Expansion: 3 Schools That Would Most Benefit Big 12 Basketball
Conference realignment is supposedly driven by football.
And while that is true, do not forget about the most consistent revenue-producing sport across most college campuses: men's basketball.
The Big 12 has one elite program (Kansas) that is routinely among the top three or five of the most profitable programs in the country. The conference also houses media giant Texas along with several other successful programs. TCU has a bright future, with new head coach Trent Johnson and an eager fanbase, but they have yet to prove they can keep up with conference foes on the hardwood or in the ratings.
Nearly a dozen schools across the country could land in the land of Jayhawks, Longhorns and Mountaineers, but there are three that would benefit the Big 12 the most.
Brigham Young University
When most major athletic programs were looking to cash in on the 2010-11 wave of conference realignment by landing in a power conference, BYU men's basketball stepped down from the Mountain West and into the West Coast Conference.
The Cougars play in the 20,000-plus seat Marriott Center on campus. The seating capacity is amongst the largest in the country, but the 40-year-old arena needs significant upgrades in order to maximize potential revenue from the Cougars' passionate fanbase.
If the Big 12 and their media partners can work around BYU's refusal to compete on Sundays, then the Cougars could bring an attractive program and new geographic region to the conference.
University of Nevada Las Vegas
A struggling football program with an annoyed fanbase is unattractive for Big 12 decision-makers, but UNLV remains an excellent option for conference expansion due to men's basketball.
The Rebels regularly land in the top 15 for basketball attendance.
They had a dismal stretch in the early 2000s, but they have five NCAA Tournament appearances since 2007, contributing to their ranking as one of the country's top-50 revenue-producing programs.
Football might hold them back initially from a power conference invitation, but Dave Rice and the Runnin' Rebels could change the mind of Bob Bowlsby with a Final Four run in 2013.
University of Louisville
KFC Yum! is potentially the most unattractive complex name in the history of college athletics, but the 22,090-seat palace has vaulted the University of Louisville's basketball program to the top of the hoops arms race.
With net revenue of $27.5 million last year, the Cardinals blew their competition out of the Ohio River and solidified their institution as the most valuable men's basketball chip in conference realignment.
The growing instability of Big East basketball certainly has Athletics Director Tom Jurich seeking better options to ensure his Rick Pitino-led program remains at the top.