This is the final article (some would say chapter) on this series.
In this article I'll cover the three paths forward:
1) After a small expansion (one to two team) with Brigham Young and maybe Cincinnati or Houston
2) After the proposed bold expansion that has done enough to keep Texas and Oklahoma in the fold.
3) After the proposed bold expansion that didn't manage to retain the Big 2.
This is the path of least resistance. The Big 12 has one legit candidate who is a power conference member by all measurables.
The Big 12 could add BYU as a football-only member and BYU would be fine with that. They could keep their religious affiliation with the schools of the WCC as they attempt to shake the labels affixed to the LDS by other Christian denominations.
It appeals to the members of the Big 12 as they have little interest in travelling out to Utah in every sport.
The Big 12 in turn would likely be allowed by the other power conferences to play a title game with 11 schools. The other power conferences have a vested interest in keeping membership in the power conference ranks down.
That doesn't mean the Big 12 would play in divisions though, so the majority of the conference would have a long travel, trap game every year (BYU & WVU).
Nostradamus says: BYU would be just another spoiler in a conference full of them. Unlikely to recruit at a high enough level to win the conference, BYU will float between 22 and 35th in the country and cost the Big 12 2-3 tips to the playoffs with costly upsets. History suggests UT in particular would not fare well.
By 2023: OU will have convinced Kansas to come with them to the PAC-12. UT will follow suit...shockingly our sage says possibly paired with Nebraska opting to trade down academically to the PAC-12 after a long run of poor Cornhusker recruiting.
With the conference falling out of the power conference ranks, BYU will return to independent status.
The Big 12 might pull CSU, Memphis, and Houston as replacements, but would West Virginia stay or go to the American? It really depends on the money. If they go, pencil in UNM...The Big 12 would end up on about the same level as the American.
BYU & Cincinnati
This kind of 2 team all-sports expansion would once more split the conference into a northern division and a southern division.
Nostradamus says: It would be more successful than the previous example. The northern division would normally be a 3 horse race between BYU, Kansas State, and West Virginia. Cincinnati would play the role of spoiler. The Cincinnati addition would prove to yield a Cincinnati team that can compete in the Big 12 and an improved West Virginia team that would be the favorite in the north each year. Unfortunately Iowa State and Kansas might see a slight talent drop.
The south would be seen as one of the toughest divisions in football as UT and Tech bounce back. OU will compete better for a while, but lack of title level talent will keep them in 3rd place most years.
The trouble is by about 2023 the money the other conferences are getting paid for their tier 3 rights and a lack of success is going to light up OU. They still drag Kansas out to the PAC-12. At that point UT really has to consider if the Big 12 is right for them. They again go to the PAC-12 with Nebraska.
BYU also probably bails out again for independent status.
BYU & Houston
Houston pushes Oklahoma State into the north division.
Nostradamus says: UT and OU recruit better in Texas. Both teams step up vs. Baylor and TCU. Texas Tech also recruits better. Houston has a rough return, but they return to the ranks of a consistent tournament basketball team.
OSU drops off a bit. The Northern division is a four horse heat between KSU, WVU, OSU, and BYU. The depth is not there up north, so the south dominates the division.
This is a good conference competitively for the Big 2, If they win their division they have a nice championship game against a weaker northern team ranked in the 7-15 range --- very similar to what the SEC West and Big 10 East now enjoy.
It opens the doors to playoff runs by south teams, but at the end of the GOR is that a conference UT wants? Is it a conference that would be safe from a PAC offer?
Would a good competitive situation obscure the financial underpinnings? If UT or OU won a few more titles would TV bump up the money again to keep them from moving to another conference and running up the money there? TV has done it before. That is a solid possibility. But it is reliant on UT or OU winning titles ---No guarantee to occur in the next 10 years.
This is the best case scenario for a 2 team expansion IMO.
A Bold expansion to 16 teams with the Big 2 hanging around.
The great thing about the bold expansion proposal looking forward is that it answers all the questions about the conference that kept people from joining last go-around.
LHN? Dealt with. Equal shares? Yep. Conference network? In place. TV households? As large or larger than any other power conference. Recruiting? Great recruiting footprint. New Hotness? Yes.
Come 2023 or so the Big 12 would be primed to hunt.
Nostradamus says: Baylor, UT, and OU dominate the east, TCU, BYU, KSU, OSU, and SDSU share time in the west. The conference wins a few titles in the next 10 years.
When the ACC deal expires, perhaps the Big 12 can entice Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, and Clemson to move west as a group. The Big 12 would create space by letting the football-only contracts of the Florida giants expire.
You throw the offer out there to the four. These are dominant football schools which the SEC business model says to ignore. The ACC exists sort of at the SEC's mercy and due to the fact these schools are blocked by Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. With no other options these schools have to stay with the ACC, ceding most control of the conference to basketball powers Duke and North Carolina. There is a real sentiment at these four schools to give the SEC the finger, but there has not been a good scenario that allows them to do so.
The Big 12 and FSU flirted a little last time, but the Big 12 was a poor option.
Unlike last time, a post bold expansion Big 12 is stable and equitable and the finances border on terrific.
Post-bold expansion, an offer will resonate. This is a better football conference than the ACC. The ACC four have more in common with UT, TCU, and OU than the ACC schools. Their division would offer Texas, Georgia, and Florida recruiting. You can't ask for better than that in football.
In basketball, the post-Bold expansion Big 12 isn't quite a peer, but it isn't a huge step backwards either. At that point Syracuse and Louisville will likely have new coaches, so... maybe they would be peers at that point.
Plus it gives the football four a much stronger shot to win a football national title every year than playing in the ACC, where a school might get left out of the playoffs.
They are already in a conference that stretches across the country...This one just offers better recruiting.
These are football schools and strong academic universities, Florida State (US News #96), Georgia Tech (#36), Miami(#51), and Clemson (#61). The academic reputation of the Big 12 would again look solidly like a power conference.
Now I am not saying that to be hateful or traitorous to the Florida giants...In such a scenario, the ACC schools would have lost their recruiting footholds in Georgia and Florida. They would have no choice but to add UCF and USF anyway to retain a hold in Florida recruiting. The giants would have leverage to force inclusion of their basketball (which hopefully would be much improved at that point. Note: Orlando produces a lot of basketball talent.). This scenario is such that the giants would end up in a better academic conference that made more regional sense for them anyway.
The Big 12 will have simply fed the Florida giants an extra $140 Million each in TV revenue alone over the course of the next decade, speeding up both schools' development into ready-to-go power conference candidates.
Everyone gets what they want.
At this point the Big 12 could just go with 18 teams pushing OU west to prop up the west (I'd say protect the Kansas/OU rivalry by throwing Iowa State to the wolves in the east). This would restore traditional Big 8 rivalries and maintain competitive balance. (I am thinking OU's out of conference games would be UT and a second made for TV game that toggled between Miami and FSU). You could play 10 in-conference games.
Tweak the name to give the SEC the finger and you are good to go.
..Or they could get harsh and look to cut heads if you wanted. The western and central schools bring media markets and recruiting. You can't dump schools there without really hurting what you have built.
Who could you spare?
You could vote out West Virginia and allow Houston's football-only membership to expire. (I don't advocate booting out Houston as that could recreate the A&M problem ---but might not--- but it could be done if needed.)
I think you'd do better to only boot West Virginia and try adding an academic ringer.... either Vanderbilt (somewhat unlikely), Wake Forest (highly unlikely), or Tulane (in a heartbeat they'd join) to even the numbers.
West Virginia would certainly get picked up by a football starved ACC (or possibly the SEC) and would be in a good spot to dominate in football in the ACC. The conference would do what they do and add heads from a seemingly endless supply of "eh" schools in the northeast. Still, it would yield a strong media, academics, basketball conference even after the Big 10 and SEC make their runs at them.
The ACC will still be a power conference....they just won't be powerful. If dumped, Houston would get picked up by the American as they would likely lose UConn to the rebuilding ACC and would need markets.)
Not a bad looking conference anyway....
Should the ACC schools stay in the ACC, there is nothing wrong with just letting the Florida giants grow into Big 12 football powers. The move is structured to be win-win.
A Bold expansion to 16 teams with the Big 2 leaving anyway.
Lets say that Kansas and OU still leave with Texas bailing out behind them.
Nostradamus says: Look around. What you have at that point is a 2nd best case scenario. Your clustering issue is solved. You have a nationwide media network with 107 Million people in your footprint and solid support for those programs. You still have strong brands in TCU and BYU. You still have Texas media relevance (although it is a little shaky).
You are what the American hoped to be.
That ain't bad.
You can add Houston, UCF, and USF as full members and let UC-Davis, St. Louis or UIC draw straws to see who adds football to be team 14. 14/18 works. Then do what conferences do ---Sit on the couch and eat bonbons.
The funny thing is, if you look at it and thought about things, if you were building a conference from scratch with free choice to pick 16 schools in the Big 12 or not in power conferences and not including UT, OU, or Kansas, would the conference have picked other members? Maybe if Baylor was still awful, you'd take UTSA instead for San Antonio. Or Cincinnati over West Virginia for the much better TV bang, but this is not bad at all.
You have a huge advantage in recruiting, media markets, and the ability to deliver day-long content.
You have just enough representation in your three keystone states for TV relevance and a single school in each state beyond that.
So maybe you "stay".
...Or maybe you tell your Olympic schools not to upgrade and look into members with academics UT would have never approved (or other flaws) as all-sports members.
The whole reason CUSA and the MWC discussed a merger a couple years ago is that a conference that stetches across all mainland time zones is more valuable than two that don't.
You could try to ramp up basketball to ridiculous highs like the old Big East did to emass an atypical amount of annual NCAA basketball tournament share revenue.
Boise State, Memphis, Cincinnati, UNM, UNLV, Wichita State come on down...
Certainly this huge of a membership may offend fan sensibilities, but that is a non-power conference with power conference-level media appeal.
That is a conference with a network and a footprint of 132 Million. It has great football brands in BYU, TCU, and Boise State, and good ones in San Diego State, Cinci, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State. It has tourney level programs in basketball at least half of it's schools---- San Diego State, UNLV, BYU, CSU, UNM, Baylor, KSU, ISU,OU, SLU, Cinci, Wichita State, and West Virginia.
And travel would be manageable with 2 divisions in football and 4 in basketball.
This would not be falling off a financial cliff. This would be more like stepping off a big step.
That ain't bad.
And isn't that the point of expansion ----to protect your school from potential future disaster while maximizing payouts today?