Big 12 Expansion: Five Dream Candidates For The 10-Team Conference

When the Big 12 Conference board of directors authorized Bob Bowlsby — the commissioner of the Power 5 league — to begin exploring expansion candidates, multiple media outlets centered their discussions around the same group of candidates that college football fans have heard for nearly a year now.

Although the Cincinnati Bearcats, UConn Huskies, and BYU Cougars are worthy of expansion consideration, Big 12 fans will not be satisfied with these institutions. These schools represent the “best available” options for expansion, something that Bob Bowlsby hinted was on the conference’s radar in an interview with ABC News.

“We are looking for members that will grow over time as we grow. That bring stability. That have a high top end.”

However, the Big 12 commissioner should not limit his sights to only the known short list of schools for the conference’s pending expansion. For the latest round of Big 12 expansion, Bob Bowlsby would be prudent to set his initial sights for schools already among the Power 5 conferences in order to solidify the future of his conference. Football analyst Tim Brando agrees with that assessment, insisting that Bowlsby should be bold in his decision-making regarding Big 12 expansion.

Who would the Big 12 fans prefer to see join the league in future expansion activities? Here is a list of five dream candidates that would be a home-run recruitment for Bob Bowlsby and his growing league.

Big 12 Expansion Dream Candidates Big 12 fans remember the iconic look dedicated Nebraska fans would bring back to the conference. As the league attempts to grow through expansion, the Cornhuskers would be dream candidates to fill available slots. [Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images]Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Nebraska Cornhuskers — former Big 12 members until being poached by the Big 10 earlier this decade — would be among the top choices for fans to join the league through expansion. As far-fetched as the scenario may sound that Nebraska would return to the league, rumors that the Cornhuskers are unhappy in their new conference are being spread. Even the dean of Big 12 coaches — Kansas State’s Bill Snyder — has suggested two former Big 12 teams “wish they could get back in our conference,” SB Nation reported.

While reviving the multiple rivalries member schools enjoyed with the Nebraska Cornhuskers would make the Big 12 fans salivate, don’t expect any serious discussion about this expansion candidate anytime soon. The Big 10 renegotiated their TV contracts recently and will pay member schools an estimated $35 million annually from these rights, according to The Indianapolis Star. That doesn’t include conference payouts from bowl games, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament or school’s individual third-tier rights, meaning the Nebraska Cornhuskers will make tens of millions more staying with the Big 10 than rejoining the Big 12 through expansion.

Florida State Seminoles

Rumors that the Florida State Seminoles are unhappy with the ACC have been around for several years, including a February article by ESPN reporting on the chances the Big 12 could lure the three-time national champions in a league expansion. A lack of revenue combined with a nation-wide lack of respect for the ACC’s football programs led much of the speculation that the Seminoles would eventually break free from the basketball-driven league.

Those conditions have changed, however. With their most-recent national championship in 2013, Florida State revived the respect the ACC’s football powers had across the country. And the recently announced agreement the ACC struck with ESPN to create a conference channel means the schools will be sharing more revenue in the immediate future. With both developments in place, the Big 12 Conference’s chances of luring Florida State through expansion took a giant step backward.

Big 12 Expansion Dream Candidates For fans of Big 12 expansion, the Florida State Seminoles and the University of Louisville Cardinals would be dream candidates to join the conference. [Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]Louisville Cardinals

The Louisville Cardinals were oh-so-close to being members of the Big 12 as recent as 2012, being passed over for the West Virginia Mountaineers during that round of expansion. Oklahoma president David Boren hasn’t forgotten that detail, telling the Tulsa World in January about pushing for the Louisville Cardinals to be added to the league. “Boy, I was very frustrated, for example, that we let Louisville get away and we let other schools get away,” Boren told the newspaper.

Not only are the Cardinals an up-and-coming football program with Bobby Petrino at the helm for his second stint, but Louisville also won the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship in what could have been the school’s second year in the league. Not only does Boren now acknowledge that the Big 12 would be hard-pressed to add the Cardinal through expansion, it’s also unlikely the school would be willing to listen to the league that spurned them less than five years ago.

UCLA/USC

The biggest city on the West Coast is home to two of the biggest fish that could be on the market, the Inquisitr previously reported. Rick Neuheisel — the UCLA Bruins’ head football coach from 2008-2011 — told listeners on his SiriusXM radio program that the Big 12 would be smart to approach his former school about expansion talks because the school could be tired of playing in the USC Trojans’ epic football shadow.

SB Nation expanded upon Neuheisel’s Big 12 expansion theory, suggesting that the conference go after both UCLA and USC instead of only one of the Los Angeles-based schools. To get the schools to leave the PAC-12, a big payday like the only the University of Texas currently receives for their third-tier rights on the Longhorn Network would be needed. While seemingly far-fetched, nothing is impossible if ESPN or Fox Sports believed the Los Angeles-based channel could earn significant revenue for the cash-strapped cable companies.

Big 12 Expansion Dream Candidates Could the fight for the Territorial Cup move to the Big 12 through expansion? [Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]Arizona/Arizona State

USC and UCLA aren’t the only two PAC-12 schools that Big 12 fans would like to see added through expansion. Both Arizona State University and the University of Arizona could be potential targets if the Big 12 seeks to add Power 5 schools through expansion, according to a previous Inquisitr report.

Rumors of this move first started in January when the Arizona Daily Star extolled the virtues such a move would have for the Arizona schools. With travel virtually the same for the schools in either the Big 12 or the PAC-12, joining a new league through expansion would only be beneficial for the right price or university fit. Fans worry that the grant of rights agreement the PAC-12 schools have would keep the Arizona schools from joining can breathe easier knowing that there are remedies to the situation, which makes a move to the Big 12 through expansion possible.

Do you see any of these dream schools joining the Big 12 during its upcoming expansion process? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]