Big 12 Conference expansion rumors are swirling once again thanks to the spring meeting for football coaches and athletic directors in Phoenix, Arizona.
In the annual event, a research firm analyzed and suggested what conference expansion could mean for the Big 12 Conference moving forward, according to an Inquisitr report. Expanding the conference back to its original 12-team composition could improve the Big 12 Conference’s chances at landing in the college football playoffs by as much as 10-15 percent annually, the research suggested.
As most media outlets have indicated, the problem with expansion now is that a sure-fire program that would boost the Big 12 Conference’s profile isn’t available. Adding schools through expansion from the Group of 5 Conferences (American Athletic Conference, Conference-USA, Mid-American Conference, Sun Belt Conference, Mountain West Conference) doesn’t benefit the Big 12 in future TV contract negotiations or national perception.
As many as 10 contenders could emerge in possible Big 12 expansion rumors, ESPN reported. Each of the schools have advantages and disadvantages, but two programs stick out from the pack: the University of Connecticut (UConn) and Brigham Young University (BYU). In addition to large athletic budgets and faithful followings, these institutions are the only remaining institutions that could immediately compete within the conference, in most sports across the board.
UConn is a state school with a national TV market that should it be included in the expansion. A local TV station touts the Huskies profile, adding the school has won four national championships since 2013, a statistic none of the other contenders for expansion can offer the Big 12. The football program seems to be on the rise again, and the Huskies have been to a BCS bowl within the past decade.
BYU joining the Big 12 also has its perks. The school has a national following thanks to its affiliation with the Mormon church, SB Nation reported. The school also has an all-around athletic excellence to point to, regularly finishing higher than other Big 12 members in the Director’s Cup — presented annually to the school with the best performance in all sports measured.
The knock on UConn joining the Big 12 is the distance. When the Big 12 added West Virginia University in 2012, the league stretched into another time zone with most schools traveling over 1,000 miles to play the Mountaineers in road contests. Adding UConn through expansion means that schools such as Texas and Texas Tech would travel roughly 1,900 miles for a conference game, a manageable distance for football but an untenable one for non-revenue sports.
BYU also has issues that make the school less attractive than other possible contenders. BYU doesn’t play on Sundays, which is not an issue for football, but poses problems for non-revenue sports scheduling. BYU is also over 1,900 miles away from WVU, which would make the Mountaineers and Cougars the two league members in a Power 5 conference with the longest distance between the schools.
While the Big 12 may choose to include BYU or UConn in its expansion plans, don’t expect that both schools will be included. More than 2,300 miles and two time zones separate the two campuses, stretching the Big 12 beyond reasonable limits.
After UConn and BYU, a multitude of contenders exist that could also be selected during expansion. Institutions like Cincinnati or Memphis offer a bridge to WVU, a trait the Big 12 could be seeking during expansion. Two Florida schools — UCF and USF — have also been mentioned with regularity, offering the Big 12 a foothold in the Florida hotbed while picking a school that could benefit from inclusion in a Power 5 conference.
What do you think about Big 12 expansion rumors focusing on BYU or UConn as future members? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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