SPORTS-RELATED POST: I’ve been following so-called rumors on Big 12 expansion ever since the conference settled at the current 10. I wouldn’t mind seeing it get back to 12, but the best overall candidate (BYU) is too far west; the best up and comer (Houston) is on the wrong side of the Louisiana state line and nobody seems to want a fifth Texas school; the most obvious choice (Cincinnati) is a lukewarm candidate depending on who it’s paired with; and my Wild Card choice (Tulane) is probably a non-starter (it’s location in New Orleans and academic prestige are why I like it). I still think the Big 12 blew a great opportunity by not taking Louisville with West Virginia and just sat at 11 for a while; the Big 10 managed just fine with 11 members for two decades before adding Nebraska. But the conference at that point was just reacting and trying to survive, and not in a position to act with a vision.
However, at this point, I’m leaning toward staying at ten and seeing how things play out in the next decade. All this hype about TV deals I think is overblown, and the trend is pointing towards more and more people abandoning the traditional cable bundle model for a la carte subscriptions (see HBO Now and CBS). Conference TV networks may not be the cash cow people think they will continue to be in the future; at least not with new TV deals going forward.
I also wonder just how happy the teams will be in the larger conferences where they rarely get to play older rivals (the article link above states that in the Big 10, Wisconsin hasn’t even played Michigan in six years). The article goes on at length about this point of view and it’s compelling. Everybody just assumes the Big 12 is weak—and yes, I know everyone hates Texas and fans of former member schools like Nebraska and ESPECIALLY Missouri seem to salivate at the thought of the Big 12 collapsing (and in Missouri’s case, because it’d mean KU therefore gets hung out to dry, although they’d be likely to end up in the Big 10 if they were available—ironic since Mizzou initially wanted to be in the Big 10). Yawn. I personally don’t think the Big 10 or SEC are going to expand beyond where they’re at now, and that will be borne out as we get into the next decade. At 16 you’re no longer really a conference; just two divisions within which you play most of your games against (which is pretty much already the case with 14).
This article, which claims sources at Arkansas have been engaging in “cocktail party” talk with Big 12 officials, is compelling if farfetched. But it illustrates my thinking on the subject that being in a super conference may not be all it’s cracked up to be. (After watching Arkansas easily dominate K-State in the Liberty Bowl, it’s easy to imagine they’d be a regular contender for the Big 12 title as opposed to being the fourth or fifth team best in the SEC West.) Although, that article argues for the veracity of conference networks, which as I opined above, is an open question in the cable cutting era.
As for a conference championship game in football at ten teams…I think it’s redundant when everybody already plays everyone else. As for teams that finish in first with the same record, use tiebreakers like the head on match up or other factors if three times tie to determine the “true” champion and give the other(s) a “co-champion” banner. No championship game without expansion. And no expansion until the current Grant of Rights deals in the other conferences begin to expire (the ACC’s expire two years before the Big 12). I think moving from a 14 or 15 member P5 conference to a tighter and more consolidated one like the Big 12 might be compelling for the Louisvilles, Florida States, Clemsons (and even the Arkansas’?) of the world.
Well, as long as they can be convinced Texas will play nice 😉