Big 12 Conference: What Will Everyone Do Now?
Once again, expansion talk is in the air.
This time the focus is on the two schools involved in the Red River Rivalry. There are rumors connecting Oklahoma and Texas with a possible move to the Pac-12, and it is also highly possible that Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will join them. We have been through this before, and there is still a chance a move won't happen. However, it seems to be a more believable possibility than last year now that Texas A&M is dead-set to go to the SEC.
In addition, there are rumors of the Big East getting into the fray, adding Missouri and Kansas from the league.
What does it all mean? Where will the schools end up in 2013? Does anyone out there want Iowa State?
Let's stir the pot of ideas and look at some plausible outcomes for each of the current Big 12 schools.
The Fate of the Conference
This all started when Texas A&M announced a few days ago that it was "formally withdrawing the Big 12 to seek application for another conference (SEC)." Once accepted, the Aggies will end their agreement with the Big 12 in June 2012.
Since then, it looks like the other members have been looking for life boats to escape the sinking ship. As mentioned before, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech are looking at the Pac-12. KU and UM are looking at the Big East. And the rest may have to settle with the Mountain West, leaving the once-proud Big 12 to fade away like the Southwest Conference.
Not so fast.
While the Sooners and Cowboys may still leave, don't expect an easy transition for the Horns and Red Raiders. The fate of the Longhorn Network and Texas politics may keep them where they are. And when I say politics, I mean...Baylor?
Yes, while Baylor isn't exactly a sports juggernaut, it holds a lot of slack in the state government and could use that pull to "convince" Texas and Texas Tech to stay and help reform the conference (and keep Baylor from going to a lesser conference).
Another thing in play could be the Longhorn Network being lost should Texas join the Pac-Pick-a Number-Between-10-and-20. However, this may not be that big of a problem, since Forbes has reported that there is a way for the Pac-Infinity to merge the two networks, provided ESPN agrees.
More will be discussed on that subject later.
If the Big 12 loses only the Oklahoma schools, what can it do? First, the conference would have to convince the Tigers and Jayhawks to stay put. Otherwise, a few more options can open up. A crazy one would be—since it would basically be the Texas schools running the show—push out Kansas State and Iowa State, send invites to four other Texas schools (Houston, SMU, UTEP and TCU) and create a new Texas exclusive Big Eight (the Big 12 still own the rights to the "Big Eight" name).
This is the least likely scenario out of all that I will mention in this article, but considering how the Texas schools can at times (and I repeat, at times) unify for a cause it is still a possibility.
Another option: Invite more schools to go back to 10 or 12. Should Kansas and Missouri stay, it would only need to find 2-4 schools to fill the ranks. The favorites would be: BYU, Air Force, Houston, SM, and TCU. Long-shot candidates would be: Boise State, UTEP, San Diego State, Colorado State, Tulsa, Tulane or Central Florida. I am going to ignore the Irish elephant in the room and assume it will remain independent.
If the Oklahoma and Texas schools leave, it would be hard for Kansas and Missouri to not leave as well. But let's say they do stay with Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State. They could try and bring in three schools and go back to being the Big Eight. However, BCS would be out of the question as there would be too much of a drop-off in strength regardless of whom they bring in.
If all six leave the conference, "Game over, man! Game over!"
The Fate of Baylor University
As previously stated, Baylor has the political muscle to pull off an even bigger upset than the TCU game and keep the Longhorns from jumping. Chances are against them, and in the end the Bears may not have a home anymore. So what would Baylor do without the Big 12?
Many people are looking at the Mountain West as a likely landing spot for the Bears. This would get the conference a step closer to getting a championship game and replace the Texas presence to be left by TCU. There, the Bears would have better chances at bowl games and would be in a conference that might still be around once all the expansion mess gets cleaned up. The Mountain West is also a strong basketball conference, with San Diego St., UNLV and New Mexico becoming recognized on a national scale.
The WAC would be another option, as the Bears would become the top team in both basketball and football. They have a chance to become the "savior" of a conference that is in the same threat of extinction as the Big 12. But would Baylor be satisfied being the big fish in a small pond, after years of swimming with other bigger fish in an ocean?
The last option would be C-USA, a more stable conference than the WAC that might be looking for replacements of its own (Central Florida could still go to the Big East, as could Houston). Baylor wouldn't be alone in the state, as it would have SMU, Rice and UTEP to create a three-way Texas rivalry within the conference (four-way if Houston stays put).
Either way, Baylor will land on its feet and will have a chance for greater success than it had in the Big 12.
The Fate of Iowa State
Oh, Iowa State.
It would be nice if the big brother in Iowa City could put in a word for the Cyclones in the Big Ten. It would make more sense geographically and they would already have two rivals that they know and hate.
Unfortunately, the Cyclones are not in the Big Ten's cards and they will have to go elsewhere for a home, which is a shame because it would be a perfect fit and an easy addition. They have the academics, they are in the right region, they are about as competitive as another school that was being considered for Big Ten expansion (Rutgers). They just fit the Big Ten mold.
So why does it seem like they are being ignored by the Big Ten?
Unless something changes behind the scenes, it doesn't look like the Cyclones will be in the same conference as the Hawkeyes. The Mountain West and WAC are too far west. The Big East isn't that interested, neither is the ACC. C-USA might work, but I believe Iowa State should go to the MAC. It fits almost as well as the Big Ten, and the Cyclones would have a shot at being a relevant factor in a conference that is more at their current level.
I want them in the Big Ten, but the MAC might be the new home for the students from Ames.
The Fate of Kansas
This basketball superpower has been rumored to be a target by the Big East, but wouldn't it be something if the ACC broke its vow of expansion silence and went after the Jayhawks as well? It would put the Jayhawks in a less-crowded conference (Big East will have 17 schools next year for basketball) and would give us Kansas vs. Duke vs. North Carolina.
Probably won't happen, but I can dream.
Seriously, I can't see Kansas turning down an invite from the Big East unless there were some actual movements being made by another big conference. While it wouldn't do anything for football, it would be another powerhouse to add to the best basketball conference in the NCAA. It might also be the beginning of a Big East shakeup, as the non-football members may decide to move out and join other conferences or start their own.
The Fate of Kansas State
The fate of the Wildcats may rest in the hands of the Jayhawks. If Kansas wants to force the Big East to also give an invite to K-State as part of a package deal, then both Kansas schools will be part of the Big East. If not, the Mountain West could come knocking on the Manhattan doors with an invitation.
The reason why I am not listing them or the Jayhawks as possible SEC candidates is because the SEC might be looking at a different Big 12 member. Not to mention it has been eyeing ACC members Florida State and Clemson. Georgia Tech might even be considered before the two Kansas schools. There are too many other schools being considered for the Kansas schools to have a shot at joining the best conference in football.
Of course, I have been wrong before.
The Fate of Missouri
Mizzou seems to be the school with the best options (outside of the Oklahoma and Texas schools). Its name has popped up in connection with the Big East, SEC and Big Ten, and the Tigers could fit with any of those three conferences and compete instantly. The question is, whom would they join?
The SEC would bring money and prestige, but also stiff competition, making it hard for the football team to rise above mid-tier.
The Big East would make for an easier transition. They would have Kansas along with them, and having TCU as an opponent would keep Mizzou's presence in Texas.
The Big Ten would also be an easy fit, with Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois already having familiarity with the Tigers.
If the Big Ten came calling, Missouri should accept. Otherwise, the Big East will become the new home of Truman the Tiger and Mizzou.
The Fate of Oklahoma
Apparently the next big piece to fall, Oklahoma seems ready to leave for the Pac-12.
The SEC was interested last year, but it seems to have faded. If the Sooners decide to stay after talking with the Pac-12, this whole thing would become a moot point. If not, look forward to seeing Bob Stoops lay down more smack about the Pac officials, beating up his little brother in games and the Schooner race Traveler up and down the field after touchdowns.
The Fate of Oklahoma State
If the Sooners go, the Cowboys will be right behind them. The Sooners would be willing to leave Texas behind—if they have to—but they won't leave the Cowboys behind. The Pac-12 would have to take both as a package, and they seem willing to do that. The Pac-12 South division would definitely become "must-see TV."
The Fate of Texas
Texas certainly has been made out to be the evil empire lately, but honestly, would you pass up all that money if it was offered to you?
The Longhorns have three choices: 1. Go to the Pac-12 with Oklahoma and Oklahoma St; 2. Stay with the Big 12 and keep it alive; 3. Go independent.
It seems like choice one or three would be the most likely, as it doesn't look like Texas wants to head a conference filled with underachievers.
A lot of people think the Longhorn Network would decide Texas' fate, but that may not be the case.
Forbes has pointed out that in Texas' contract with ESPN that there is a way for it to keep its network, so long as all involved parties can agree on it.
However, even if it loses the network, Texas seems ready to jump to the Pac-12 Conference.
The Fate of Texas Tech
Texas Tech wants to go with Texas and Oklahoma to the Pac-12. It would make the conference even at 16 and satisfy the Longhorns. They are the closest to the Pac-12 of the four, so it also makes a little bit of sense geographically.
If for some reason Tech gets left out, the Mountain West may give the Red Raiders an offer. The Big East might also give them a call to give TCU a traveling buddy.
In the End, All We Can Do Is Talk and Wait
While it seems like the Big 12 may dissolve, nothing is set in stone. Anything can still happen.
So while we sit and wait for Oklahoma to make its move, let's hear an opinion from an SEC "representative" about the idea of Texas A&M wanting to be the 13th member.