With today’s announcement from the Pac 12 that they do not intend to expand, every Big 12 team besides Texas and Oklahoma (who, in case you’re living under a rock, are moving to the SEC) are now in a state of limbo. The Big 12 conference won’t survive past 2025 – unless of course they add some serious College Football schools through expansion. Here’s our list of the best schools for the Big 12 to target to have a chance to stay afloat.
Lets get this obvious candidate out of the way. Following their undefeated National Championship season (you can debate that one in the comments), UCF became the de facto leader of the G5. It’s a no-brainer that they offer the most in terms of geography (the Big 12 has already tried to break into Florida via FSU), talent (yes, we remember the winless year, but they’ve won big across decades) and brand. If the Big 12 expands and doesn’t add UCF, people will be scratching their heads.
Yes, BYU carries some baggage. The Utah school’s close mormon ties are off putting to some, but they have an extremely loyal and large fan base. Plus, they’re continuously a powerful performer viewed more in lie with the current Big 12 schools in terms of history and on field product. One interesting angle – BYU has a TV station, BYU.tv. The Big 12 is losing their resident TV station with the eventual departure of the Longhorn Network.
Boise is one thing – entertaining. Who doesn’t remember the Statue of Liberty play in which they beat soon-to-be Big 12 ex Oklahoma. Even more recently, the Chris Petersen and Bryan Harsin led offenses terrorized defenses all around the Mountain West. Boise’s play style and personality would fit perfectly in the Big 12 – the roadblock issues are the school’s academics, facilities, size of fan base and budget.
Did we mention facilities? Yes, Colorado State may not be the first school you thought of for Big 12 candidacy. However, they have one hell of a negotiation point, and that’s their stadium. Colorado State’s Canvas Stadium seats 41,000, less than 5,000 behind the smallest Big 12 stadium, TCU. Few other schools on this list can compete with CSU in terms of the facilities they already have. More seats = more ticket revenue (if filled), which will definitely catch the Big 12’s eye.
While the Big 12 already has a few schools in Texas beyond the Longhorns (TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech), adding Houston helps the Big 12 keep 4 teams in its central state. Plus, the local rivalries are certainly intriguing. Houston also has fielded some extremely competitive teams (including a few almost-playoff invaders). The program has been sliding a bit recently with some unsuccessful head coaching searches, but Houston is one of those G5 programs you can rely on to consistently play well enough to glue eyes to the screen. This is the most important thing to the Big 12 right now.
Cincinnati is up there with UCF for no brainers on this list. While Cincy hasn’t quite caught the spotlight like UCF did recently, they’ve continuously put a winning product on the field. Cincinnati would be an instant contender in the Big 12, at least finishing in the upper half based on previous performance. Provided Head Coach Luke Fickell sticks around, Cincinnati is probably the most P5 ready school on this list. Plus, they (along with the final school on this list) will ease WVU’s travel burden.
Memphis has had some ups and downs, but they land on this list for a few reasons. They expand the Big 12’s footprint to an important football state they don’t occupy (Tennessee), they play winning football, and their program is trending upwards. A smaller fan base presents an issue, but Memphis will be more appealing to sell tickets for than say, Marshall, who is comparable in terms of performance.