After what UCF and USF showed this year, the Big 12 needs to open up the expansion idea again.
Just watch that UCF thriller over USF again.
Just watch the American Athletic Conference championship again. That’s what you can have, Big 12. That powder keg that’s been waiting to blow could end up being a part of what you do.
The Big 12 has been stodgy – to be kind – when it comes to expanding its product. Some don’t want to share the pie, some got cold feet, some just couldn’t find the right fit, and they’re all right in their own ways. But as this week showed, it’s time to change this up.
The Big 12 dodged a major bullet. It chose to crank up an unnecessary Big 12 Championship game for a ten-team round-robin league, and it lucked out when Oklahoma beat TCU. As we now know, no, the College Football Playoff committee wouldn’t have cared if TCU had won – the Big 12 would’ve been left out.
But that toothpaste is out of the tube. There’s no way the conference is going back to its 12-game schedule with no title game – and now the league has to get bigger.
There haven’t been a whole slew of great options, though.
The Big 12 had to do all it could to keep the foxes out of the henhouse to take more of its programs, and now it’s a weaker overall product without Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado.
Adding UCF and USF wouldn’t exactly bring all of that back. but it would fill a whole bunch of holes.
Of course, a slew of Big 12 fans have no interest.
USF is still trying to gear up the interest in Tampa to get the fans out on a regular basis, and UCF needs to do this for a few more years to get the stability needed to make going to games a habit.
But how many people were at, say, Rutgers games late in the year? Is Maryland selling out the house? Did the Big Ten care all that much? Not really – the BTN deal is solid, which means it doesn’t matter that 12 people show up for Illinois games, too.
This is about more than attendance – it’s about expanding the brand. Expanding the TV possibilities, Generating a bigger reach.
Do you really think the Big Ten even cares one lick about Maryland and Rutgers? Nope, but it can say it’s in the New York/New Jersey and Baltimore/DC markets now.
There were plenty of good seats available at several Big 12 schools throughout this season, but the league’s problem continues to be its closed up world. If you don’t care about Texas-Oklahoma based schools, the conference probably isn’t your cup of tea.
I’ve chirped about this for years, and now, more than ever, it makes sense.
USF has around 50,000 students, UCF around 65,000, and while a lot are commuters, that’s still a massive, massive base to draw from. Create a consistent winner at either one, roll in an Oklahoma or a Texas once in a while, and boom. You’ve built this thing up.
You get Tampa, Orlando, and the whole I-4 corridor. You expand your recruiting base. You expand your TV markets to a whole other level, and you expand your brand.
And you get your two divisions again.
It’s not hard. The Texas programs can hang together. Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, UCF and USF in one division, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia in the other.
And now you have a thing
But, Big 12ers, you’re just not all that interested. You still want to be Texas-centric? Okay, bring about Houston, too. And expand further and add on Memphis.
Now your TV markets and reach are truly huge. You’ve increased the fan base to a whole other level, and you have the time to build the product up.
If small schools like TCU and Baylor can make noise, these big schools can, too.
And then the division situation becomes even more interesting.
Baylor, Houston, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, UCF and USF in one division, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia in the other.
Texas types can love having a five-team division to go along with the fun trips to Tampa and Orlando. West Virginia would have a friend in Memphis to try creating some sort of rivalry of misfit Big 12 programs, and …
It makes too much sense.
Maybe the American Athletic Conference will like the idea and reverse and start going after Big 12 teams.