Earlier this summer, the Big 12 conference was thrown into chaos. In one week, conference powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma went from discussing leaving the Big 12 to formally announcing their departure from the conference in 2025. Naturally, this brings expansion into speculation.
Whose open arms are they running to? None other than the South Eastern Conference (SEC). This sent shock waves throughout the college football landscape and caused the Twittersphere to speculate on the future of the Big 12 itself.
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We will start by stating the obvious: losing Texas and Oklahoma will cause a massive drop in revenue for the conference. That in and of itself is enough to question how much longer the group will last.
On September 10th, 2021, the Big 12 formally extended invitations to the University of Cincinnati (UC), Brigham Young University (BYU), the University of Houston (UH), and the University of Central Florida (UCF). Let’s look at what each team could bring to the Big 12 if they were to join.
In 2020, BYU posted an 11-1 record, the best among independent schools, and finished 16th in the final CFP Poll. The Cougars seem primed for another good season this year, despite the loss of second overall pick, Zach Wilson.
Since 2006, dating back to their Mountain West days, BYU has only posted one season below .500, with a total win/loss count of 131-63, including a 5-4 record in bowl games.
From a fandom perspective, LaVell Edwards Stadium seats 63,470 people, which would be the largest in a post-UT/OU Big 12. Not to mention the picturesque mountainous setting the stadium sits in.
Next up is the University of Houston, which just so happens to bear the same feline mascot as BYU. Bringing UH into the mix recovers a share of the coveted Texas recruiting region that all conferences scout heavily.
Previously, Houston was a member of the long-defunct Southwest Conference, the spiritual predecessor of the Big 12. Since then, UH has been a member of the American Athletic Conference (AAC). Since joining the AAC, Houston has put together a win/loss record of 60-38. Additionally, the Cougars have only failed to earn a bowl game appearance one time.
Houston not only adds a 40,000 seat stadium (TDECU Stadium) but one of the largest TV markets in the country as well. For that reason alone, Houston is a no-brainer candidate the Big 12.
Another member of the AAC is our next subject. The University of Cincinnati has been on a tear since joining the conference along with Houston in 2013, only posting two below .500 seasons in that time.
After wrapping up their second straight season ranked in the final CFP poll in 2019 (21st) and 2020 (9th), the Bearcats are poised to make a huge leap into a Power 5 conference.
Finally, get the respect they have long deserved from the selection committee. Having recorded a decade and a half of excellence (129-62 since 2006), it seems to be the perfect time to pounce on this opportunity.
A move like this certainly sounds like a “talk the talk, walk the walk” moment from the outside looking in. At least on paper, UC almost certainly appears to be able to walk the walk. A history of tradition comes with them in the form of Nippert Stadium, the 40,000 seat home of the Bearcats since 1915.
Last, but not least, we have the University of Central Florida. The self-proclaimed 2017 National Champions have the most to prove of the four. The third member of the AAC on this list was the only undefeated team in Division I FBS that year, after going 0-12 two just seasons prior.
It may seem now like the Big 12 is poaching the AAC’s best talents. While that may be the case, I think the main reason they would want UCF is their market. Orlando would give the Big 12 a large east coast market (think Rutgers to the Big 10).
Since joining the AAC in 2013, they’ve posted a 68-32 record, including gaining national recognition by finishing 6th in the CFP Poll in 2017. This includes knocking off Auburn, 34-27, in the Peach Bowl.
While the Big 12 are no strangers to sunny climates, adding the state of Florida is a big move. UCF’s 3MG Stadium, affectionately known as the “Bounce House”, seats 48,000 and an intense environment for visiting teams.
Hypothetical Big 12 Conference Realignments
Now, let’s take a look at what the Big 12 would look realigned. Recent news suggests that all four schools would be joining the conference in 2023. This would put the conference at 14 teams until Texas and OU depart in 2025.
Big 12 North: Iowa State, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Kansas, Kansas State, BYU, Oklahoma State
Big 12 South: Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Houston, Central Florida
Big 12 East: Iowa State, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Big 12 West: Oklahoma, BYU, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Houston
Big 12 North: Iowa State, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Kansas State, BYU, Kansas
Big 12 South: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Houston, Central Florida
Big 12 East: Iowa State, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Kansas State, Central Florida, Baylor
Big 12 West: BYU, Texas Tech, TCU, Houston, Oklahoma State, Kansas
As for what will actually occur, no one can say until it happens. What I have suggested are just my best guesses at what the Big 12 could look like entering this new era.
For now, though, we’ll just have to wait and see.