Big 12 Expansion Rumors: Memphis, Cincinnati Could Be Added By This Summer

The Big 12 Conference may finally be able to live up to its name once again as expansion talks are dominating this week’s annual spring meetings, multiple news outlets have reported.

Spurring the expansion talks for the Big 12 Conference is research being presented to football coaches and athletic directors. Navigate Research — a company based out of Chicago, Illinois — is presenting the data and making recommendations for potential expansion scenarios. In presenting the research they’ve produced, the firm suggested that the Big 12 could boost their chances at playing the college football playoffs by as much as five percent annually by adding a conference championship game, the USA Today reported.

New Big 12 board chairman and current University of Oklahoma president David Boren has said he wants to see the conference settle the expansion debate and potentially start adding teams as early as this summer, according to an ESPN article. In a tweet by blogger Adam Rittenberg, David Boren said the Big 12 needed to be proactive in expansion activity.

“Philosophically, we haven’t ever been a conference that sits still. I don’t mean that in a backhanded way referring to any of the realignment experiences. Going back to the beginning, we’ve always been a league that tries to think proactively.”

Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby agreed with the University of Oklahoma president on the potential expansion timeline. Although he is not sold the league will act, Bowlsby believes the time to act is now.

“Once we get the diagnostics done and the data analysis done, we need to get down the path and make some decisions. There’s no sense in dragging it out once we know all the pieces to the puzzle.”

While the Big 12 Conference had a representative in the college football playoffs this past season, the previous year saw the league left out. Expansion to a 12-team league with a championship game could help the Big 12 land a team in the college football playoffs by as much as 10-15 percent, CBS SportsDennis Dodd reported.

The renewed talks about expansion have come during the Big 12 spring meetings in Phoenix, Arizona. While the athletic directors have seen much of the report during a March meeting, the coaches were getting the first glance at the information.

Numerous schools are interested in joining the Big 12 Conference during potential expansion, including the University of Memphis. The Commercial Appeal — the Memphis-based newspaper — wrote that the school’s president Dr. M. David Rudd is making the pitch to league officials should the Big 12 Conference start the expansion process.

The school produced a publication to highlight the appeal of Memphis. This 42-page digital publication showcases the city’s Fortune 500 businesses and passionate fan base, including music icon Justin Timberlake. Dr. Rudd released the publication on Twitter through a series of messages, a clear attempt to put the school in Big 12 expansion talks.

In addition to Memphis, the University of Cincinnati seems to be a school many individuals — including Oklahoma president David Boren — would consider. Email exchanges early last year provided high praise for Cincinnati by Boren, according to Yahoo! Sports. An influential member of the Big 12’s board such as David Boren could make an impact on Cincinnati’s chances of inclusion during expansion.

The appeal of a Memphis or Cincinnati would be to build a bridge between current outlying member West Virginia University. The Mountaineers are more than 700 miles from the closest member of the Big 12 Conference, and expansion targeting nearby schools is certain to be favored by the school.

Other schools rumored to be considered by the Big 12 Conference include the University of Connecticut, the University of Houston, the University of Central Florida, and Brigham Young University, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. However, no decision on a potential Big 12 Conference expansion is expected until the final meetings of the spring — including the one of university presidents — conclude in June.

What do you think about the Big 12 Conference renewed expansion discussions, especially if Memphis or Cincinnati were to be targeted by the league? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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