Big 12 MUST expand but should seek MARQUEE names

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May 16, 2016 No Comments ›› admin

By Lynn Woolley

I love college football and especially follow my alma mater, Texas, and the Big 12.

While Texas has had some off years in football – so has the conference. The Big 12 really has 10 members. The Big 10 has 14. So does the SEC, and no Power Five conference has fewer than 12 members. Well except for the Big 12, which also doesn’t have a conference TV network. Something’s gotta give.

Video: Talk radio on Big 12 expansion

Oklahoma is not happy with the status quo and neither is West Virginia.

But before it expands and works to convert the Longhorn Network into a conference channel, the Big 12 should ponder its choices. What exactly could Houston, Cincinnati or Memphis bring to the table? May I suggest an attempt to raid the ACC? If the Big 12 can get Florida State and Clemson – then it’s got something. And it should settle for nothing less than marquee names.

Video: OU President David Boren on the LHN and expansion

Why Florida State and Clemson?

Those two teams have been rumored for along time to be willing to split from the ACC – known as much for basketball as for football. If they could still be wooed to the Big 12, that would mean four top-of-the-line marquee names (Texas and Oklahoma being the other two) plus a number of other schools like West Virginia Texas Tech, Iowa State, Okie State, and the Kansas schools that have big alumni followings.

Florida State's Doak S. Campbell Stadium seats 82,300

Florida State’s Doak S. Campbell Stadium seats 82,300

And don’t forget the two private schools that have kicked a lot of butt on the football field for several years now – Baylor and TCU. At this point, both of those schools seem to have created stable, long-term programs that will succeed for a long while.

So the Big 12 is looking pretty good.

But with 10 members, it has no conference championship and that hurt it when Baylor bad TCU tied for the championship game and neither team got invited to the big dance. Add two teams such as Florida State and Clemson and you’ve got several huge advantages.

• Two championship caliber programs that draw big TV numbers
• Two more very large stadiums that look great when filled to capacity and shot from a blimp camera
• A natural rivalry on the east side of the country
• Two teams closer to Morgantown
• Two teams that are valuable properties when negotiating TV rights

And two teams that might enjoy being in a league with Texas and Oklahoma – the two major marquee names in the Big 12.

Clemson Memorial Stadium - capacity 81,500

Clemson Memorial Stadium – capacity 81,500

What if Florida State and Clemson can’t be had?

That would not be good. Take a look at the schools are that are regularly mentioned as replacements and the good and the bad associated with them.

• Notre Dame. Well, heck yes. The Big 12 would welcome the Fighting Irish with open arms – IF they would come. But they have zero interest as far as I can determine. In addition, they, like Texas, have a nice TV deal. Theirs is with NBC, and the Big 12 would be forced to allow them to keep it.

• Houston. This former member of the Southwest Conference has been great on the field and has a new stadium. But most Big 12 schools do not wish to reconstitute the SWC. Houston’s success is mostly against non-Power Five teams. Its stadium is tiny compared to those of the Big 10 and the SEC, and those in Austin and Norman. Besides, current Big 12 teams deliver the Houston market for television.

• Central Florida. This is a gigantic school and it’s had some success on the field. But a marquee name it ain’t.

• South Florida. See Central Florida.

• Cincinnati. Not a marquee name. Small stadium. Small fan base. Helmet logo looks like Chick-fil-A.

• Colorado State. The Rams could replace the Colorado Buffaloes that defected to the Pac 12. But few people have a clue about this team.

• UConn. Basketball. ‘Nuff said.

• Memphis. Please tell me you’re kidding!

• Brigham Young (BYU). OK, this is a school worth considering. It’s a Mormon school and they don’t play on Sundays. Some of the players are older because they have to spend some time on mission trips. They’re a long way from Morgantown. They have their own TV network. But they are usually good on the field of play, they have one national football championship, and a huge fan base. Outside of Florida State and Clemson, this is the best team out there that would probably accept an invitation.

If, and it’s a big if – Florida State and Clemson would accept invitations, that makes twelve teams and fulfills the namesake of the conference.

The Big 12 currently  (Wikipedia)

The Big 12 currently (Wikipedia)

But the new trend is to 14 teams. What other two make sense?

If Florida State and Clemson come on board, the other two are not quite as important. Of the teams being bandied about, BYU would be the best choice followed by Houston or Cincinnati. There is virtually no upside for any of the others.

Who else might be persuaded?

Nebraska comes to mind. The Big 10 hasn’t been kind on the field of play and Nebraska’s status as a marquee team has suffered some – just as Texas’ has. If the Longhorns ever agree to fold the Longhorn Network into a conference channel, the Cornhuskers might return — and renew the age-old rivalry with Oklahoma. It might also be possible to have discussions with Georgia Tech.

Raiding other conferences is expensive because recent contracts include a lot of penalties and most of them amount to huge separation fees to get out of a conference membership. In other words, the Big 12 waited way too long. But it still has to make a move and soon. The other conferences are quite a bit ahead of the Big 12 when it comes to negotiating TV dollars – not to mention recruiting.

With all this said, here are my top 5 schools that should be brought in (excepting Notre Dame):

1. Florida State
2. Clemson
3. Nebraska
4. Georgia Tech
5. Brigham Young

After that’s it’s Houston or Cincinnati, but it doesn’t really matter much at that point. Get the top 4 above, and the Big 12 really is a Power Five conference.

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