Yes! Best. News. Ever. No, I'm not talking about the shenanigans of the Republican National Convention- the Big 12 has finally gotten it's act together and given me the best early Christmas present ever: a decision to move forward with expansion! Which means I can indulge in mindless and exciting speculation until they make a decision and prove me wrong.
I have a feeling (yes, a feeling) that a combination of Oklahoma, the announcement of an ACC Network being developed/launched by ESPN and the silly, stupid amounts of money the Big Ten is making off of their television deal forced the hand of the Big 12. I think, given a choice, Texas probably would have kept the status quo and been the big fish in the pond, but the plate tectonics of college football and cable television continue to shift and that means you expand or inevitably die. (While the other conferences say they're done, that's horseshit and everyone knows it. The Big Ten is doing looking at expansion when Jim Delaney says they are and if the right school knocks on the door they'll happily drop a grenade on any of their other conferences. Probably with a certain amount of glee.)
So, the Big 12 is expanding. The question now becomes are they going back to 12 or shooting the moon and heading to 14 or maybe dropping some serious acid and saying 16? Let's Play Our Game!
1. West Virginia is going to get some friends. They're just sort of hanging out there in the eastern time zone doing their thing and they're on a geographically isolated island.
2. Westward expansion remains a possibility.
3. I'd be surprised if Houston gets an invite.
Given those three principles, this is what I'm going to go with:
If it's two (sensible, but not likely): Cincy and UCONN. I know everyone seems really big on BYU, but I don't buy them as a 'Mormon Notre Dame' and think someplace like the Air Force Academy would bring more of a true national brand to the table if that's what they're looking for.
If it's four (probably more likely): Cincy, UCONN, Colorado State and Boise State: Cincy and UCONN give West Virginia some friends- Colorado State is a 'just below the radar' option that not enough people are looking at, in my opinion that gets the Big 12 back into the Boulder/Denver area markets probably more effectively than BYU does. You can argue that BYU could easily replace Boise State on this list, but again... I'm not that convinced. I don't see what it brings to the table in terms of branding or media markets- though the same could easily be said of Boise State. I just like the symmetry of this option- two east, two west.
If it's six (less likely, but would be oh, what's the word- ambitious): Cincy, UCONN, Colorado State, BYU, Boise State, Memphis would probably the most likely scenario. But, there's also the UCF/USF combo to think of as well. I think the Big 12 would really be upsetting the apple cart if they added six- which is why I think it's unlikely, but if you figure two east: Cincy, UCONN- two west, Colorado State and either BYU/Boise, then it's conceivable that 'two south' could bring them to 16 either with UCF and USF (a straight Florida option) or Memphis and one of the Florida schools.
I know people are super big on Houston, but I just don't see it. Too much Texas in the Big 12 already and you better believe with Baylor imploding the Longhorns aren't going to want to replace them with an up and coming, exciting program like Houston. Sorry.
Undoubtedly, I'm going to be wrong on pretty much all of this, but it sounds like they want to make a move and get people added by next season, so there's months of mindless speculation to look forward too.
God, I love realignment.