The Big 12 Conference is reportedly planning on going with two seven-team divisions as they spend at least a couple of seasons with 14 teams in the league. It will certainly be awkward having Oklahoma and Texas in the league, along with new members like UCF, Houston, BYU and Cincinnati. However, such is college football in the 21st century.
So with 14 teams, the Big 12 is trying to figure out the best way to divide the conference for a couple of seasons. The league has said it prefer having Oklahoma and Texas in opposite divisions, that way when both leave, they have two, clean six-team divisions that also don’t need to be reshuffled once again. That makes sense.
So here’s my proposal for the Big 12 Conference:
East: West Virginia, UCF, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma
West: BYU, Texas Tech, Houston, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas
Before worrying about the “perfect” line that creates East/West, worry about the plethora of other things that need to be considered first.
If Oklahoma and Texas are to be split, this is the way to do it.
East Set Up
The West Virginia, UCF, Cincinnati trio work well together. West Virginia and Cincinnati know each other from their Big East days and can hopefully build a nice regional rivalry, while UCF is obviously a natural fit to join these three, as they know Cincinnati from the AAC, and West Virginia has always had a presence and recruited Florida well dating back to their Big East days.
Then, the Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas trio are an obvious fit to stick together in a division. You keep the Sunflower Showdown in division, along with Farmageddon, while the KU-Iowa State rivalry has become solid as well (at least in hoops).
Is Oklahoma a fit with those other teams in the East? Not really. But who cares? They’re leaving. The other six teams fit really well and the Big 12 needs to plan for its future, not what’s in the best interest of a team who nearly helped destroy the conference.
West Set Up
Keeping BYU with only Texas and Oklahoma teams makes the most sense from a travel perspective, so they join all five (later four) Texas schools, plus Oklahoma State. There is certainly a Southwest Conference flair here with Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech and Houston, which feels like it fits. And Oklahoma State is a bit of an outlier here, as the other Big Eight schools are in the other division, but Oklahoma State is more of a Texas-style school than it is those to the north, so in an imperfect world it works.
As for Texas, they get their Texas schools for a couple of more years, who will undoubtedly have a great time getting a couple more chances to take down the Longhorns before they leave for the SEC. This should create some great match ups.
Once Oklahoma and Texas leave, the Big 12 plans to still play nine-game conference schedules, which means there will be four games for each team against teams from the other division, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Oklahoma State fans to make the trek to Ames, or Kansas State fans to go to Stillwater, and so on.
I’ll add one more thing: worrying about competitiveness should not matter. Coaches and players come and go. There is no clear blue blood in this league after OU and Texas leave. So it’s best to focus on all the other factors that go into the equation.
In a world of college football expansion, the geography for divisions becomes trickier, but this seems like the best way to balance locations, with what’s in the best interest of the programs and fans.