Big 12 Expansion Rumors: With Nearly 20 Schools To Choose From, Which Emerge As Favorites?

Ernie Howell

Big 12 Conference expansion rumors will begin to heat up once again now that the league's commissioner -- Bob Bowlsby -- has completed his video conference interviews with the nearly 20 schools that expressed interest in joining the conference, multiple media reports explained.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Bob Bowlsby finished his initial Big 12 expansion interviews this week. Rumors suggest that the conference commissioner spoke with at least 18 schools about potentially filling one of two or four vacancies, writer Chuck Carlton penned.

"Schools presenting are expected to include favorites like Houston and Cincinnati as well as other possible contenders like Memphis, Central Florida, BYU, UConn, Colorado State and South Florida. SMU will get its shot to make a pitch. So will Air Force, Arkansas State, Boise State, East Carolina, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, San Diego State, Temple and Tulane."

BYU is getting a renewed push from one of its high-profile alumni, Austin American-Statesman writer Kirk Bohls wrote. "[O]ne Big 12 school official said 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called power brokers, including Oklahoma State's T. Boone Pickens, lobbying for support for BYU to join the conference. Romney is a BYU grad," Bohls penned.

Cincinnati and Memphis would be on the outside looking in, according to other publications. The Memphis Tigers' hopes hinge on a four-team Big 12 expansion, The Commercial Appeal's David Williams wrote. "That's in line, of course, with much of the current wisdom (read: speculation) — suggesting that Memphis' best shot is a four-school rather than two-school expansion," Williams explained.

SB Nation may have the most complete ranking system as it suggests in its final option that the Big 12 expansion committee choose "everyone." In this unrealistic scenario, the Big 12 would choose all of their expansion candidates to create a two-tiered league. Calling the newest additions the "Little 12," this scenario would be sure to end expansion talk for the foreseeable future.

The timeline to complete Big 12 expansion has been widely discussed, but a recent estimate by a member of the Big 12 board may end up being the truest measure of when the expansion process would be realized. That estimate -- by Iowa State president Steven Leath - suggested that the majority of the expansion process could be wrapped up around the end of the college football regular season and would yield a "different Big 12 in the somewhat near future," The Commercial Appeal reported.

"Between now and Christmas, most of that should be hammered out... There's no way I can say for sure. I'm one of 10 votes, but the Big 12 board did vote to charge the commissioner with actively pursuing expansion. So the sentiment of the group was, yes, let's take a serious look and see who's out there, who wants to join. We're spending a lot of money and time to that end, so I suspect that's where we'll end up."

[Photo by Jay Drowns/Getty Images]