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UPDATED: Big 12 Expansion: Breaking Down The Finalists


The Big 12 has reportedly whittled the expansion field down to a few schools. Which ones have the best cases to make to be a part of Big 12 expansion?


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Does the Big 12 really know the schools that have a real shot at getting into the club? Apparently, it’s going to be go time soon for the ones who’ll get the longest look.

According to Mark Blaudschun of TMGcollegesports.com, the Big 12 is rumored to have its list of “six to eight” schools targeted for possible expansion.

Blaudschun goes on to say the league will likely only go with two schools to start, and might not even decide on which ones they’ll be until the end of the year.

However, the reportedly preferred schools on the list are BYU, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Memphis, UCF and USF. ESPN later reported that there are 12 schools on the list – but couldn’t confirm that Memphis is one of them – with Air Force, Colorado State, Rice, SMU, Temple and Tulane also in the running.

If those are really the schools who get to make the formal presentation and pitch to the Big 12, which two have the best shot?

Here’s the best guess handicapping each school’s chances to be a part of Big 12 expansion from best to worst.

1. Houston

The Case For …

– Texas has given its blessing. It’s a natural big-market tie-in that works great with the rest of the Big 12 Texas schools.

– Phenomenal TV market, great city, gigantic student body of more than 40,000 students. NRG Stadium a natural fit for big showdowns.

– It helps to lock up the region. Great recruiting base to continue to draw from, hurts Texas A&M a wee bit.

The Case Against …

– Texas, Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech – the Big 12 is already too Texas-centric. Getting Houston doesn’t move the national needle.

– TV market might not be that big a deal – Houston fans will watch Texas, or whatever their affiliation might be.

2. BYU

The Case For …

– International, rabid fan base. This expands the Big 12 brand well beyond its region.

– Historically solid program. Good tradition, good name recognition. The biggest prestige program in play.

– Expands to the Mountain Time Zone. Expands the TV market.

The Case Against …

– It would almost certainly be for football only. The University has a policy against playing on Sunday, which wouldn’t make a difference for football, but the Big 12 might want a fully-in school in all sports.

– Controversy. The LGBT community might holler and protest over BYU’s religious rules about sexual behavior.

– The BYU TV network. The Big 12 already has its own headache with the Longhorn Network, and while the BYU thing is different, it doesn’t need another issue to deal with on the way to a Big 12 TV network.

3. Cincinnati

The Case For …

– Decent tie-in for West Virginia. The Bearcats and Mountaineers would likely align as eventual rivals.

– The region is solid, getting the Big 12 into Ohio and helping dive into a fertile recruiting base.

– Professional sports city willing to bend over backwards to make this happen. But …

The Case Against …

– It’s a pro sports town. UC basketball became a factor, and the football program could grow as the tie-in with the Big 12 becomes a bigger thing, but the city is still about the Bengals and Reds.

– The TV market isn’t anything great. The overall region is better than the eyeballs coming from the city.

– Small stadium. For big games the Bearcats could move to Paul Brown Stadium, but even if it expands, Nippert Stadium will only be around 55,000.

4. Memphis

The Case For …

– It’s right in the regional wheelhouse – and not in Texas. It’s a perfect natural tie-in for Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in terms of reasonable distance.

– Jacked up city pride over the Big 12 option. FedEx has gone out of its way to say it wants to be a partner in all the fun, even as a sponsor of the Big 12 title game.

– Good-sized stadium of more than 60,000, good basketball program. It’s more than just football with the Tigers.

The Case Against …

– Is the football fan base there? The program has been better over the last few years, but there isn’t a massive area to draw on. 20,000 student enrollment is fine, not huge.

– Okay TV market in a big city, but it’s not Houston.

– Is this really going to be a football school? Memphis is basketball, and it’s just starting to build itself up on the football side at a Power 5 level. Once Justin Fuente had a shot at Virginia Tech, he was gone.

5. USF

The Case For …

– Massive school, massive student body. There might be a lot of commuters, but there’s a fan base right there waiting for something big. There’s a huge alumni base to draw from.

– It’s Florida. It changes the dynamic of the Big 12 with a great recruiting area and with a new look. Suddenly, the Big 12 isn’t just Texas.

– Great city, great TV market, big stadium. Fans will want to make the road trip.

The Case Against …

– It’s not your normal college football school. Raymond James Stadium is fine, but it’s the Buccaneers’ world. It would give the Big 12 a different feel, and not always in a good way.

– It might be a package deal. The Big 12 shouldn’t take USF without getting UCF, too. One probably doesn’t do enough for what the conference is looking for.

– Does USF get lost in the shuffle? At absolute best, it’ll be the fourth-best football program in Florida, and it’ll always be 1,000 miles behind Florida, Florida State and Miami in terms of prestige.

6. UCF

The Case For …

– GIGANTIC base of students with an enrollment of close to 61,000. It might be a commuter school, but they like sports, too. Moving to the Big 12 would change the dynamic of how the alumni view football – it would make it a far bigger thing.

– Phenomenal TV market/city combo. Easy to get fans to travel to Orlando, and easy to hold big events in one of the tourist capitals of the world.

– Like USF, it’s Florida. Recruiting base helps, and it changes the dynamic of the Big 12.

The Case Against …

– Much like South Florida, UCF might need a buddy. Just getting UCF isn’t enough, and it might get lumped in with its neighbor down the I-4 in Tampa.

– The stadium is just okay, the fan base – as big as it might be – hasn’t gone overboard for football, and like USF’s problem, it’s still going to be down a several notches in the pecking order of Sunshine State football.

7. Connecticut

The Case For …

– Expands Big 12 in a unique way. It gets the conference out of the Midwest and into the East Coast TV markets.

– Basketball. There’s more to getting UConn than football. With the hoops programs, this is one of the more interesting options to add something different to the mix.

– It gives the Big 12 a different look, and it puts other potentially in play. Temple becomes more attractive as a partner, and if the Big 12 wants to attack the ACC, Syracuse and Boston College might be a part of the puzzle.

The Case Against …

– Football, schmootball. The program is okay, but there isn’t a massive fan base. The Big 12 has nice basketball programs, but it’s football, football, football.

– Being in Connecticut doesn’t really move the needle too much. Yeah, the school expands the reach, but New York City isn’t going to start watching Big 12 football.

8. Colorado State

The Case For …

– It’s not like getting Colorado back, but it’s getting something sort of close regionally. It sort of gets the Denver area with a big alumni base.

– The Rams are getting a new stadium next year. It’s going to be a new on-campus stadium to start the 2017 season and be slick and state-of-the-art. It might only seat 41,000, but it’ll be shiny and new.

– There’s a great-sized student body with over 33,000 students. The program and the school could quickly grow with inclusion into the Big 12 – all of a sudden, the fans would start to get fired up for Rams football, because.

The Case Against …

– There hasn’t been a whole lot of love for Colorado State football recently. The attendance hasn’t been there for a solid-to-great team, but obviously that changes up if Oklahoma is coming to town rather than UNLV.

– It seems like a good fit in terms of geography, but it’s not all that close to the rest of the Big 12. Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State are in driving distance, but it’ll be an all day haul to get there.

9. Tulane

The Case For …

– New Orleans. It moves the Big 12 over to Louisiana and gets it into another region and recruiting area. LSU and Arkansas like to come into Texas and get players, and the Big 12 might be able to dip more into Louisiana.

– Phenomenal academic institution. The best of the ones on the list, this helps the Big 12 overall where it really counts – at least to those who don’t care about football.

– TV market. Tulane football isn’t really a draw with LSU ruling the state, but Oklahoma going to Tulane would generate interest in the area.

The Case Against …

– Smallish private school without a huge fan base. The Big 12 would basically be adding Duke.

– Tulane football just isn’t big enough. The pitch is all about helping add academic heft to the conference. People will never, ever, ever tune in nationally for Iowa State vs. Tulane.

10. SMU

The Case For …

– It gets the alumni back involved. Like it or not, the Big 12 is a Dallas-centric, Texas-infused conference that might like another local school in the mix. The tradition is there – good along with the bad.

– SMU just seems like it’s part of the family. TCU, Baylor and Texas games would be just some of the showdowns that would be a big enough deal to put in Jerry World.

– Getting even more of the Dallas-Fort Worth TV market isn’t a bad thing.

The Case Against …

– The Big 12 doesn’t need another smallish private school. With an enrollment of around 11,000, the school might just not be big enough.

– The Big 12 is already too Texas. Adding Houston is one thing, but bringing in yet another Dallas-Fort Worth school doesn’t do anything nationally.

11. Air Force

The Case For …

– It’s a different sort of thought that at least deserves consideration. With a national fan base, the game would have a little bit of pop outside of the region.

– It wouldn’t help all that much with the Denver market, but it gets the Big 12 into Colorado. It would be a good fit to go along with Colorado State.

– Academics. It’s a service academy – it’ll help out with the overall respect and prestige of the conference.

The Case Against …

– It doesn’t make any sense. Navy would be the better service academy to go after in terms of time zone and expansion.

– The fan base isn’t massive. It’s still a small-enrollment school that doesn’t have a giant football fan base.

– Limited upside. There’s no chance of turning into a TCU or Baylor in terms of rising up and rocking at a national level. There’s a hard ceiling on what the program can become.

12. Temple

The Case For …

– Philadelphia. It expands into a big TV market that changes the dynamic of the Big 12 footprint. It’ll make news when a Kansas State or Texas or Oklahoma State comes to town.

– It’s a commuter city school, but it has about 38,000 students and a big alumni base. As seen over the last few years, there’s a buzz when the football program is strong.

– There’s your playmate for West Virginia. The decent rivalry might build up.

The Case Against …

– It’s a true city school. It doesn’t quite fit the traditional college football mold, and it’s a different, outside-the-box thought by the Big 12. This would be a massive shift in change.

– Would the TV market really care about Temple football in the Big 12? It’s a pro town and a college basketball city – it would take work to build up Temple as a bigger brand. It just might not be big enough.

13. Rice

The Case For …

– Could this be a friend for Houston to play with? Get the Cougars and Owls, and the Big 12 owns one of the largest TV markets in the nation.

–  It cranks up the academic side to a whole level. Traditionally ranked among the 20 best schools in the country, this appeases the academic side.

– It’s back to the old Southwest Conference days. There’s a tradition in Texas with the football program.

The Case Against …

– It’s way, way too small. With fewer than 4,000 students, it’s a tiny school without the big fan base needed.

– The conference can’t take both Houston and Rice – it doesn’t make any sense. Getting Rice alone doesn’t really grab the Houston TV market.

Schools that aren’t on the list that will be very, very disappointed they likely won’t get their shot at Big 12 expansion: Boise State, East Carolina, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, SMU, UNLV