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The Top Three Expansion Candidates For the Big 12 are …?

Thank you, David Boren. No, seriously… thank you. It’s late June, typically a time when college football fans are salivating for something, anything to get them closer to late August. It’s that awkward time when spring ball is a distant memory, media days aren’t quite here yet, and we are all clamoring for some kind of news. Well, Oklahoma president David Boren gave us just that when he said at a board of regents meeting that the Big 12 should “strive for” 12 members.

Sure, I’ve talked about this before on my various Heartland College Sports podcasts. Does it make sense to add 12? From a certain standpoint, it does. Expansion brings more security to the conference, adds the guarantee of a conference championship game (at least until the NCAA adds the exception for conferences with less than 12 schools to host a title game), and expands the conference’s footprint to other markets. But, there are plenty of negatives as well including potential pay cuts for the current Universities, as the pool of TV money would be split between 12 instead of 10 schools. Also, addition for the sake of addition can water down the product. Just ask Ohio State fans how they like playing Rutgers and Maryland instead of say, Michigan State or Iowa.

So, while I am not a fan of expansion at this moment, here are the top 3 choices I would like to see the Big 12 add, if the conference hierarchy voted and believed it was the way to go.

University of Central Florida: The Big 12 should give the SEC a taste of their own medicine. The SEC bullied their way into the fertile recruiting grounds of Texas by swiping Texas A&M away from the Big 12. I’d like to see the Big 12 find a stranglehold in the Sunshine State and UCF is a good long term bet.

Of course, this is all assuming the brief 2012 rumor of Florida State’s interest in the Big 12 is no longer feasible or an option. But, having parents who reside in the Orlando area, with a close friend who is a recent UCF graduate, I view UCF similar to a stock that is undervalued and a good long-term bet.

The University has made it a priority to become a destination campus with students living on-campus, rather than being a commuter school. Also, they have made major strides in their facilities and the football team has certainly become formidable under Coach O’Leary. Plus, the student body of 61,000 means that if you play the numbers game, the amount of alumni being pumped out of UCF will bode well for future pride in the school and athletics.

Houston: I get it… no one really wants this to happen. Thanks to their large number of Texas schools in the conference, the Big 12 already has a stranglehold on the Houston TV market. Plus, current Big 12 coaches don’t want another competitor for Houston area recruits. But, why not add another school in the Lone Star state and make sure the SEC footprint doesn’t continue to seep it’s way into Texas?

I love the hire of Tom Herman, former Ohio State offensive coordinator, as the new head coach. The Ohio State offense was electric under Herman (508 YPG and 45 PPG) and I expect him to bring that kind of firepower to Houston. Instead of making Houston a stepping stone job for the likes of Kevin Sumlin and Art Briles, why can’t Houston, with the addition to the Big 12, become a destination gig, i.e. Gary Patterson at TCU? Anytime you can add eyeballs from the football crazed state of Texas in TV market #4… it’s worth serious consideration.

BYU: There’s no greater national brand on this list than the Cougars, which would be most enticing to TV executives. Yes, it would mean the conference would stretch from Morgantown, West Virginia to Provo, Utah, nearly 2,000 miles. But, if BYU would ever consider removing their refusal to play on Sundays (for other sports purposes), this is worth further discussion. I think the future of college football resides in the form of Super Conferences anyway. So, if you’re the Big 12, why not get a head start? BYU, culturally, with a western, rocky mountain feel to it, can replace was Colorado was to the Big 12 and it is a very valuable product from a TV and marketing standpoint.

The rest of the list:

Cincinnati: They would be #4 on my list thanks to solid football and basketball programs. But, Cinci is a pro town (Bengals, Reds) and the Bearcats also have Ohio State to compete against for viewers. Plus, Ohio and Pennsylvania are no longer the fertile recruiting grounds they were a generation ago.

UConn: Storrs, CT is a dump with an even dumpier football program. There is no real connection to the NYC market, especially for football purposes. It’s a good basketball school, but that doesn’t drive the big $$ today.

University of South Florida: Their potential positives/negatives are similar to UCF. But, I think UCF is a better bet of the two.

Boise State: TV market that isn’t even in the top 100. Boise State’s aura has slowly been fading away the past few years anyway (hence, Chris Petersen seeing the writing on the wall and bolting to Washington).

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