A person cannot navigate very far on social media sites today without bumping into a statement from a school administrator from a Big 12 expansion hopeful extolling the virtues of his or her institution during the league’s fact-finding/negotiation period before league officials decide how many invitations to extend. NBCSports.com cobbled together a cross-section of responses from seven different schools, each touting its own merits, and still omitted several others that are circulating on various websites.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott even weighed in with a tweet calling Big 12 expansion “a non-starter unless it includes” the University of Houston. No doubt, politicians from other states that include schools with Big 12 hopes and dreams have followed suit.
At some point, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will hand out the invitations and make a few schools happy. He’ll upset far more than a few. As we count down to a final decision, here is a handy primer for notable hopefuls who wonder what might be working against their school in Big 12 deliberations:
Brigham Young: The league’s longstanding and recently reiterated refusal to play Sunday games is a huge problem in regard to adding the school as a full member. But it should have zero bearing on whether the Cougars could be accepted for football-only membership. The Big 12 has made it clear that football-only memberships could be part of this equation. But BYU brings enough to the table in other sports to be an asset as a full member. It will be interesting to see if a work-around to the school’s never-on-Sunday policy can be negotiated to make that work for all parties.
Houston: The Cougars would be the fifth school from Texas if added to the 10-member league. That’s a lot of geographic repetition in an era when conferences seek to brand their leagues on a national level. For perspective, no other Power 5 league currently has more than four members from the same state. That would be the Pac-12, with UCLA, USC, Stanford and California.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ home field, Nippert Stadium, is old (built in 1924) and undersized (40,000 capacity). An upgrade in football facilities clearly is in order but the school shares the same city with an NFL team, meaning high-profile games could be shifted to the Bengals’ stadium if more capacity is needed. In regard to full membership, Cincinnati probably has the fewest unanswered questions of any expansion candidate.
Memphis: The Tigers’ football program had been a perpetual struggler until a resurgence the past two seasons (19-7 combined record) under former coach Justin Fuente. The Liberty Bowl, built in 1965, could use some updates and upgrades. The basketball program, while typically strong, has had more than its share of NCAA sanctions.
Central Florida: The school has a huge enrollment, a new football stadium and is located in a terrific city (Orlando). But there is a limited history of athletics success. The school’s first football season was 1979.
Connecticut: A premier asset in men’s and women’s basketball but we all know basketball success means little in the realignment game. It’s all about football and the Huskies typically struggle in that sport. Plus, they are far removed geographically from the heart of Big 12 country. A hidden asset would be the proximity of the school’s campus in Storrs, Conn. to ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn. and the added exposure that Big 12 games would receive by being held down the road from the epicenter of the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports.” There is intrinsic value with that.