College Confidential

Here’s why the Big 12 should stay at ten teams

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and fellow league executives face some big decisions on the expansion front.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and fellow league executives face some big decisions on the expansion front. AP

Expansion ramifications involve long-term legal entanglements between conference members. Methods to determine college football’s annual national champion can be altered more easily in the short term.

That is why you can expect Big 12 administrators to move at a glacial pace on the topic of expansion when compared to the warp speed preferred by college football fans. Especially the fans who cheer for Brigham Young, Cincinnati, Houston, Connecticut, Memphis, Central Florida, South Florida, SMU and other schools that clamor for Big 12 invitations to achieve membership in a Power 5 conference.

Although expansion will be a topic for discussion by Big 12 presidents at the league’s spring meetings, May 31-June 3 in Irving, there are compelling reasons to keep the 10-team status quo despite evidence that shows the league could benefit in its College Football Playoff pursuits by expanding.

Among them:

A successful push to expand the College Football Playoff field to six or eight teams, rather than the current four-team configuration, would achieve the Big 12’s goal of perpetual playoff inclusion without league expansion if such a move included a guaranteed playoff spot for the winner of each Power 5 league. Such a proposal could draw support from other Power 5 leagues once they realize their teams are eligible for omission in the current process. Kudos to Dan Wetzel of for raising that point this morning.

A worthwhile expansion involves identifying two schools that bring more to the table than they take away. You can make that case for Brigham Young. BYU is the most popular football program among college fans in Utah, a state with multiple Division I options. There is no other football team currently operating outside of a Power 5 conference that meets a similar litmus test. And you really need two to tango. Or expand.

Existing network television contracts for the Power 5 leagues will disappear between 2023 and 2027. The Big 12’s deals with ESPN and Fox expire in 2025. Once those are done, a new era of realignment free agency on the realignment front will surface, making it possible that a 10-member Big 12 (assuming it still exists) could approach two schools from fellow Power 5 leagues to recapture its 12-team configuration. Over the long haul, that might be a better fit than a short-term football fix to enhance playoff potential under today’s CFP model.

Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch

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