Conference expansion just won't go away—not even in the middle of the college football season.
With the recent announcements of Louisville going to the ACC, Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten and Tulane (all sports) and East Carolina (football only) to the Big East, the Big 12 has been very quiet. Too quiet.
What are you waiting for, fellas?
Conference USA is ripe for the picking, and there are some good teams available for poaching. Houston makes a lot of sense in terms of geography. So do Tulsa and SMU. Unfortunately, all three of the schools' stadiums hold around 30,000 fans, give or take a few thousand. Rice and UTEP are both located in Texas and have much larger stadiums, but does the Big 12 really just want more teams from Texas? Shouldn't it be expanding its reach?
What about Central Florida? It's in a Top 20 television market. Ka-ching. Having a footprint in a state that spits out SEC-speed athletes is a win-win for the conference.
BYU and Louisiana Tech are also excellent options. While BYU is independent, it can still negotiate keeping its own network while giving the conference an additional footprint in another state. More fodder: BYU also has a national fanbase, and Provo is part of the Salt Lake City television market, which is ranked No. 33 among all markets. Louisiana Tech is also a good addition, as it's right next door to Texas, and it provides the Big 12 a branch into SEC country.
Maryland bolting to the Big Ten is a red flag that the Big 12 shouldn't ignore. The ACC was shocked by Maryland's defection, and this might be the perfect time for the Big 12 to go after Clemson, Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech. West Virginia doesn't have a natural rival in the Big 12, but any of those three teams would certainly fill that void.
Although Louisville's pending entrance into the ACC keeps football at status quo with 12 schools, other ACC schools have to be wary; any time a BCS conference loses a member, that conference's stability comes into question—but conference stability isn't the only red flag.
This January, an ACC champion will play either an at-large team or the Big East champion in the Orange Bowl—and the bowl's history of low television ratings coupled with a sparsely-filled stadium has to be a concern for all ACC members. Recruits notice that kind of stuff.
The Fiesta Bowl, on the other hand, has been a BCS boon, despite some illegal activities committed by the bowl's former employees.
The Big 12 needs to make a move now because it doesn't have the 12-team membership required to hold a championship game. While the conference has had a spectacular year in getting teams bowl-eligible—nine of 10 teams are "going bowling" this season—that lack of a championship game will hurt them down the road. The Big 12 needs to add two teams now and not go through another season devoid of a conference championship game.
If Kansas State went 12-0 next season, would Kansas State be ranked higher than a 13-0 SEC team? The answer is obviously no.
That thirteenth game gets extra points in the BCS standings. That thirteenth game also gets more consideration from voters—the additional game equates to a more difficult schedule.
That scenario alone should be driving the Big 12 to a conference expansion discussion. Kansas basketball head coach Bill Self even weighed on on that matter when he gave Kansascity.com's Rustin Dodd his thoughts on conference expansion:
Are we gonna stay at 10, which is the perfect number, but going forward is that really reasonable to be at 10? The SEC is gonna poach somebody now; they’re gonna have 16. The ACC’s gonna have 16. But the SEC may poach the ACC, so now that’s gonna screw that number up. So where are we with the stuff?
We are in great shape. I don’t feel like there’s any need to rush to do anything. But I do think there should be talks in case—a contingency plan.