Now that it is official that Texas A&M is heading to the SEC starting next year, this will leave three vacancies in the Big 12.
Who should Big 12 go after? There are lots of rumors that BYU is under consideration.
Let's look at the pros and cons of BYU and some other schools that this writer contends the Big 12 should consider.
All of them bring assets in one way or the other, in alphabetical order.
The Big East is already interested in adding Air Force for football only. The Big 12 could easily talk Air Force into realizing the Big 12 makes much more sense in terms of travel time.
Air Force is competitive in football and usually can give BCS programs fits when they schedule the Falcons. For example, they beat Georgia Tech, 14-7 in the Independence Bowl (2010), they lost a close 27-24 battle to Oklahoma (2010), had a big win over Notre Dame, 41-24 (2007) and lost 31-30 to Tennessee (2006).
Because it is a service academy, Air Force would have national appeal for TV.
Air Force is not really competitive in other sports, and they have been to the NCAA big dance only four times.
With Utah and TCU off to BCS pastures, Boise State is the last of the major non-AQ qualifying programs that is still not in a BCS league. It is simply a matter of time when they make their move.
Boise State can compete with BCS schools: they've beaten Georgia (2011), Virginia Tech (2010), Oregon (2009, 2008) and Oregon State (2006).
Since joining the WAC in 2001, Boise State has been the ruler of the league—they have eight league titles in seven years with over 10 regular season wins.
Boise State has created a national following, and millions of fans from non-AQ conferences continue to root for the Broncos as hope for their own programs.
The state of Idaho and city of Boise are not great media markets.
Boise State is more of a Pac-12 candidate from a geographic point of view than a Big 12 program.
Would Boise lose their 'mojo' and non-alumni fan base if they no longer are a non-AQ program with the 'Us vs. the BCS' mentality?
Football is all Boise State offers; their men's basketball team has been to the NCAA tournament only five times and lost every time in the first round.
The BYU Cougars certainly bring football tradition to any conference: They were the 1984 National Champs.
In the last 10 years, they have maintained a Top 25 ranking five of those years, and went as high as No. 12 last year.
They also have 29 bowl games on their resume, as well as a national following for TV due to its religious affiliation as a university.
They're not too bad in men's basketball, either, with over 26 NCAA appearances, including five straight.
The Utah Utes just moved to the Pac-12, so will the state of Utah be big enough to support and maintain two BCS programs?
They faced soft competition in their previous conference.
BYU has struggled against BCS competition. Some examples: a 54-28 loss to Florida State in 2009, a 31-21 loss to Arizona in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-17 loss to UCLA in 2007, a 20-3 loss to Boston College and a 49-23 loss to Notre Dame in 2005
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States and a major TV market.
The Cougars have made strong efforts to try and make Houston a competitive football program again, much like they were in the late 1970s. The hiring of Art Briles and current coach Kevin Sumlin has led the Cougars to 57-43 win-loss record and six bowl games.
Houston University announced a $160 million campaign to upgrade both their football and basketball facilities.
The Cougars were once a Southwest Conference program, and has history with most of the Big 12.
Houston has a dicey record with BCS-leagued schools: a 47-24 loss to Mississippi State (2010), a 56-37 loss to Oklahoma (2008), a 30-24 loss to Alabama(2007) and a 44-36 loss to South Carolina in the Liberty Bowl (2006).
The city of Houston is already in a Big 12 market.
Houston's basketball program has never regained the success it had back in the 1980s with the Phi Slama Jama.
According to an unnamed source in the Big 12, Louisville is already under consideration.
Louisville spent years and millions of dollars to become a BCS-caliber football program, all of which culminated in their 12-1 season in 2006 and victory in the BCS Orange Bowl.
The Cardinals bring a solid basketball program to the Big 12. Fifth all-time leading program appearing in the NCAA Tournament. Also, Louisville maintains one of the most profitable basketball programs in D-1.
Since the exit of Bobby Petrino, Louisville football has slumped to average and below average in the Big East.
Basketball coach Rick Pitino is happy in the Big East and wants to stay. With football down, the needs of the basketball program will no doubt be taken very serious.
The city of Memphis is in the heart of SEC country. Great opportunity for the Big 12 programs to compete for recruits and try and break down media doors to get some non-alumni SEC fans.
The Tigers bring a solid basketball tradition (played for the NCAA Championship twice; appeared three times in the Final Four and in the Final Eight over seven times).
To say Memphis football is underachieving would be an understatement, but Memphis has potential for growth. One of Memphis's difficulties is having to compete against the SEC for recruits and fan loyalty, so getting into a BCS conference would be just the equalizer Memphis would need to compete for BCS-league caliber recruiting.
Memphis also has an unlikely ally backing them for a BCS entry: Louisville basketball coach, Rick Pitino.
Football is horrible. And it doesn't look like Memphis's Athletic Director, R.C. Johnson, plans to make any changes to the football staff this year.
The city of Memphis is not a very strong TV market and the Census Report came back and declared Memphis to be the poorest city of it size in the nation.
Since the creation of C-USA in 1995, Memphis football has never won their division or the conference outright.
While Notre Dame's name does not carry the cachet it used to, let's face it—it's still Notre Dame.
11 National Championships, 96 All-Americans and 7 Heisman Trophy winners.
A national following from coast to coast.
Strong academic addition to the Big 12. Notre Dame is ranked No. 19 in the U.S. News Report on Best Colleges, while the closest Big 12 ranking is No. 45 (University of Texas).
Notre Dame also has a decent basketball program.
Notre Dame would have to give up their TV contract with NBC and in a conference, perhaps give up playing one or two of their major rivals (Michigan, MSU, USC, Navy).
Since 1995, the Irish have really struggled in bowl games—see 2-9 overall.
Notre Dame is already affiliated with the Big East in other sports, but geographically the Irish are really a Big 10 candidate. The Irish seem out of place in a Big 12 expansion.
SMU has been slowly making a comeback after suffering the death penalty in football in 1987. The hiring of June Jones from Hawaii has marked a dramatic comeback for the Mustangs. They have already won their first bowl game in 25 years, and for the last two years have been the Co-Divisional champs of the Western Division of C-USA.
Familiarity with most of the schools in the Big 12, as SMU was a former member in the Southwest Conference.
SMU has already reached out to the Big 12 for membership.
Located in Dallas, Texas. Very good media market to be in.
Much like Houston Cougars, SMU is already in a Big 12 recruiting and media market.
Despite their quick success under Jones, the Mustangs still have much to prove they are back to their old 'Pony Express' days of the 1980s. A major win over a BCS school or winning C-USA outright would help.
Don't have much else to bring to the table, SMU basketball hasn't been to a Final Four since 1956 or won a conference title in basketball since they left the defunct Southwest Conference.
What can one say—TCU has an impressive resume in the last decade.
In the Top 10 four times. 101-29 win-loss record. 62-18 conference record (Both C-USA and Mountain West). 10 bowl games including winning the BCS's 2010 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.
The University and boosters are committed to making football premiere. Just finished a $165 million dollar restoration on football stadium.
Another former Southwest Conference member, and has a historical rivalry with Texas Tech and Baylor.
Already was picked by the Big East; however, TCU could be in a holding pattern until the ACC finishes raiding the Big East.
Going to be a Big East member next year if nothing dramatically changes.
Because of their location in Dallas, just like SMU, the Horned Frogs are already in a Big 12 market.
TCU men's basketball has not been to the NCAA since 1987.
West Virginia is the football anchor of the Big East. WVU has done its part to uphold the honor of the Big East in BCS Bowls, with a 2006 Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia and 2008 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.
Since 2003, they have won the Big East five times as conference champions.
Hardcore fan base willing to support the program.
Bob Huggins has been making their basketball program one of the top programs, including a Final Four appearance in the 2009-2010 season.
Makes no sense geographically. Morgantown, WV is over 700 miles from the closest Big 12 program. This might be all right for football and basketball, but minor sports will be hit with major travel expenses.
West Virgina as a state is not the best media market. The largest city, Charleston, only has a population of 51,400 people, with a total metropolitan area of 304,214.
According to the US & News World Report on the Best Colleges, West Virginia is ranked 164th. That would make WVU the lowest-ranked university in the Big 12—even below Texas Tech's #160.