Conference Realignment: Which Side of the Argument Is Each Big 12 School On?

While It May Be Apparent How Texas Would Proceed, Where Does the Rest of the Big 12 Stand on Conference Realignment?

News yesterday was that the Big 12 was “content” with 10 members, maintaining its current alignment, with no championship game and a nice sum of money for everybody involved. But of course, there are all of those pesky rumors that this could all change once the playoff landscape is decided upon by June 30 of this year. On top of that, some schools are coming out in favor of a playoff, while others are against.

We’ll be taking a look at each of the Big 12’s 10 schools below, and evaluating where they sit right now: either for or against expanding the league by at least two members. About a week and a half ago, there were five pushing for it in some way, four on the fence and one flat-out no. But now? Let’s dive in…

Baylor: After pushing to keep the Big 12 together, it appears that it’s “mission accomplished.” But after one of the program’s most successful seasons in recent (or distant) memory, does expansion suit them or not? In a north/south divisional split, they’re unlikely to contend with OU or Texas, but a 10-team setup gives them zero chance to win the league but be its top seed. They go with the odds. Pick: Pro-Expansion

Iowa State: Another team whose best interest is to see a healthy Big 12, with teams contending for the national title. Have the Cyclones ruled out any chance they’d be able to win the league, though? AD Jamie Pollard says he’d rather see a true league champion contend than a 7-5 team steal a title and a shot at the crystal football. Given that ISU’s best bet is being that 7-5 team, I think we know where they’re at. Pick: Anti-Expansion

Kansas: Some would claim KU’s also out of luck when it comes to contending, but they did go 12-1 just a few years back. And if not for divisional play, the Jayhawks could have not only won the Big 12, but also had a shot at a national title. By losing to Missouri in an epic Border War between two top-three teams, Kansas suffered its first loss and the North division. With 10 teams, however, they would’ve been crowned league champs even with the defeat. Pick: Anti-Expansion

Kansas State: Head coach Bill Snyder’s open to it, but he’s not the entire university. Given that the Wildcats have been a stronger program over the past two decades than their in-state brethren, they actually have a better shot at winning a league title in a given year. When considering 2011’s number-eight ranking, and the fact that they’ve actually won the Big 12 title on an upset bid, they’re much more likely to be in favor than not. Pick: Pro-Expansion

Oklahoma: Historically, OU has been one of the league’s best teams, and when you can lay claim to a title like that, you don’t want or need additional opportunities to slip up. While it only happened to the Sooners once (2003), that’s more than enough stolen title chances to make up their mind. If they win the Big 12 outright at 9-0, they’re a likely championship contender and/or playoff participant. Should they do the same and then lose in a conference championship, they’ll be playing in the new, glorified Cotton Bowl. Pick: Anti-Expansion

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were the first beneficiaries of a 10-team Big 12, winning the league last season with an 8-1 record. Grouped with Texas and OU in any potential division, they too stand a better shot at both a conference title and national title playing through the round-robin format. Why risk losing a tiebreaker like Texas Tech did back in 2008? And why, after a season like 2011, would the Cowboys want to add another hurdle to jeopardize their chances at a playoff berth/national championship game? Pick: Anti-Expansion

TCU: The Frogs seem awful excited about finally rejoining the “big boys,” as indicated by Chris Del Conte’s comments last week. So does that mean they’re pro-expansion? They’ve seen first-hand what failing to be proactive does to a conference (four times, in fact), so their push may be mostly out of concern for the unknown future. They’ve also done just fine appearing in BCS games after simply winning their league — the counter-argument. Still, I think they fall in the camp of being in favor of overall profitability. Pick: Pro-Expansion

Texas: This one’s the most obvious of the bunch. Deloss Dodds has come out and said he’s anti-expansion, and why should he feel otherwise? Like OU, they’ve spent a good portion of the past couple decades dominating the Big 12. So now that the added step of winning a conference title game has been removed, why bring it back? The Horns want the easiest route to a national championship, and this is it. Pick: Anti-Expansion

Texas Tech: The aforementioned tiebreaker that jobbed Tech should be enough to convince them to stay at 10. But it’s not entirely prevented in a round-robin format either. However, considering if the Red Raiders managed to get through a season in a reworked Big 12 South, they’d be unlikely to want to play yet another game, I think it’s safe to say they’re against the additional game and expansion. Pick: Anti-Expansion

West Virginia: Like TCU, West Virginia emerges from the smoke of instability to the safety of a stronghold league in the Big 12. Now how do they like their chances? Based on last year’s results, they may actually want to avoid the conference championship game as well. If forced to play another game last season in the Big East, they could’ve very well lost a “Big East Championship Game” and missed out on drubbing Clemson. It also would’ve robbed us of the “… And West Virginia Scored on Clemson Again” meme, something I’m unsure the internet would be happy about. Pick: Anti-Expansion

Totaling us up after looking at all 10 schools, we’ve got seven anti-expansion and just three pro-expansion — enough to probably kill it in the water, if put to the test. Some may be swing votes, sure, but overall, there’s actually a pretty nice contingent of schools whose interest are best served by a 10-member Big 12. Of course, the four-team playoff may actually end up being so off-the-wall that each league would be best served as 18-team entities, and then Florida State receives an express-mailed invite. But who really knows? We’ll keep an eye out, with fingers crossed the ACC can keep it together.

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4 thoughts on “Conference Realignment: Which Side of the Argument Is Each Big 12 School On?

  1. I hope your analysis is correct, and they won’t expand and take schools from the ACC, but I’m not sure what to expect anymore.

    The Conference USA football championship game from last year is a great example of how a conference championship can screw over a conference. If Houston had won, C-USA would have received a BCS bid, but because Southern Miss pulled the upset, C-USA was shut out of getting a BCS bid. Southern Miss’ win actually cost its conference a lot of money.

    Another consideration is that if the Big 12 only takes Florida State and Clemson, those two are probably going to push (if not immediately, than eventually) to grab more schools from the southeast. That might move the Big 12 all the way to 14 or 16 teams, and the other schools need to think about whether or not they really want to go in that direction.

    A Big 12 championship game would definitely bring in money. The Big Ten makes $24 million every year from their championship game … which, FWIW, is twice what the Mountain West makes in a year for their ENTIRE television contract. It’s crazy.

    There is another possibility, and that is to just expand by one school. It’s not unheard of (the Big Ten was at 11 schools for years) and it allows you to have an eight-game conference schedule. That would mean they would have more flexibility with their out-of-conference schedules (and Texas might have another game for its Longhorn Network), and they still would not have to worry about a conference championship game derailing a good team. The could have issues with tiebreakers, but it may be worth considering anyway.

    Nowadays, anything is possible.

    • Unsure how I feel about the 11-team conference. Was never a big fan of it when the B1G was built that way, and always hated the three-way ties at the top. Opinions can change, though. Was once a big fan of the nine-game league schedule, and now I’m starting to reconsider. In years like 2012, with teams (WVU) bailing out of deals at the last minute, it’s great. But for other seasons, it becomes a real chore keeping rivalries intact. Both SU and Pitt would want to play the Mountaineers in non-conference, but it’s virtually impossible every season with just three open slots. Pitt also wants Notre Dame yearly, while ‘Cuse wants ND/Penn State every so often. FSU’s also not happy about the nine-game schedule, so may be a worthwhile concession to make in regards to them sticking around.

      • There’s also the issue of fairness with a 9-game schedule, since you’ll have a different number of home & away conference games (not that the Big 12 cares about that).

        To me, the flexibility of four non-conference games can help all schools, whether they’re not expecting much out of their team (and therefore would want a weaker schedule) or would want to play some high-level competition to have a better strength of schedule. As you mention, it also makes it easier to preserve rivalries. As a Maryland fan, I’d love it if the Terps could play Navy each year, but it hasn’t been a regular occurrence in quite a while.

        I don’t expect the Big 12 to seriously consider an 11-team conference, but I’m not sure anything would surprise me anymore. The likelihood that adding FSU and Clemson would mean that they would eventually push for more southeastern teams (wanting either a 14 or 16 team league) is probably of more a concern to the Big 12.

        Not sure how you feel about this, but in some ways I would hope for a 16-team league with “pods” and a northern pod of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and BC (and a mid-Atlantic one of Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia & VT). Rotating divisions would mean that everyone could see every other ACC opponent at least once every three years, and that might entice Notre Dame if they could rotate around the league to get more exposure across the east coast.

        • I was a big fan of the pod concept when it was first floated back when Texas was talking to us (supposedly). Still like it now if we choose to add Rutgers and Notre Dame (not happening unless forced to). Definitely agree, the rotating divisional setup is really a best-case for all involved, but a big draw for Notre Dame, I’d think.

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