With the deadline for Nebraska and Missouri approaching we should look at possible, non-apocalyptic scenarios for the Big 12. One report from Orangebloods.com suggests the Big 12 would carry on if Nebraska stayed and Missouri moved on, and presumably as the Big 11.
In the new economy of college football it's hard to see that scenario playing out for an extended period of time since you can't play a conference championship game with only 11 schools. With that in mind, let's examine the potential candidates for a new 12th member of the conference.
Tiny enrollment numbers make the Green Wave a touchy option. However, Tulane, which was once a member of the SEC, brings a piece of the New Orleans market in the heart of SEC country, is in the process of upgrading athletic facilities, including a new football stadium , and is ranked 50th in the US News College Rankings.
I mention that only because Texas is intrigued by the possibility of being in an academically superior conference and Tulane could help provide academic improvement, even over Missouri, who is ranked 102nd. Probability: one percent.
A personal pipe-dream. This would be the ultimate in forward thinking from the Big 12. The campus in Orlando has exploded to become the largest undergraduate enrollment campus in America. Central Florida has poured money into it's athletic programs and is the east coast version of Utah as the "BCS school in waiting", along with East Carolina. An entry into the heart of ACC and SEC country, UCF would expand the conference footprint in prime sunbelt territory.
The Knights would come best paired with another Florida school (USF) as a travel buddy for non-revenue sports. In this context, that doesn't work so well. Probability: two percent.
Geographically intriguing, but unrealistic. The current Texas and Oklahoma Big 12 schools don't want more high level recruiting competition and, more importantly, these schools in no way expand the Big 12 media footprint we hear so much about.
Houston and TCU both bring large media markets that are already dominated by the Big 12. UTEP could possibly expand the market but athletically would be below the old SWC choices and UTEP is a Tier 4 school. Tulsa is seen as a step child to OU and OSU. Possibility: six percent.
Geographically would be a good fit if Colorado went to the Pac 10 and Missouri stayed, otherwise Memphis is disconnected from the rest of the conference. However, Memphis boasts over 20,000 students and a metropolitan area of over 1 million residents. The Tigers would be an awesome basketball power to pair with Kansas, but football is the driver in expansion, not roundball. Probability: seven percent.
Must be mentioned because they really are the most eligible bachelor. Unfortunately, ND is much like George Clooney—ever independent and loving it. If they could somehow be convinced that their best way back to national prominence would be the Texas recruiting pipeline it could happen. Plus they could slide neatly into the Big 12 North. For this to happen the Big East would have to implode. Possibility: nine percent.
Geographically contiguous to the big 12, UNM has 27,000 students and a metro population of nearly 1 million and Albuquerque is one of the fastest growing cities in America. The Lobos were even a possibility for initial Big 8 expansion. The market is the entire draw. Football is terrible but basketball has a history of being good. Probability: 10 percent.
Makes perfect sense for the Big 12. Not as much sense for Arkansas. If the Big 12 could figure out how to boost it's television profits the Hogs could be compelled to join. They have old rivalries with the former SWC schools as well as geographic rivalries with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, while they are the geographic outlier in the SEC.
However, this scenario would probably include Arkansas in the Big 12 North, because the Bedlam series will never be broken up. On the other hand this gives the Razorbacks more of an opportunity for success than they had in the SEC. A perfect storm could make this a reality. Probability: 20 percent.
The thinking is that Utah and BYU would give Colorado a closer rival to keep them in conference. That's not necessarily true. By car it is just as far to Salt Lake City, UT as it is to Manhattan, KS. BYU and Utah are about market expansion. Colorado State would be about rivalry, and all make sense. One would assume these schools would jump at the chance to join a more lucrative Big 12, even though the MWC is on the verge of automatic BCS status.
While these are not the sexiest choices they all have appeal. Utah has strong football and basketball. BYU has national appeal and strong football and basketball. BYU was also in the mix during the initial Big 8 expansion plan. Both bring you the Salt Lake City market. Colorado State enrolls 25,000 students with a history of good football, though not much lately. Probability: 45 percent.