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7 things I know – for sure – about Big 12 expansion

RAYMOND CARLIN III/USA TODAY SPORTS

As recently as Tuesday morning, USA Today college football writer George Schroeder, who was in attendance at the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, said the conference had tabled expansion for “several years.”


Tuesday afternoon, the story was turned completely on its head.

By Tuesday night, Big 12 expansion seemed imminent, with perhaps as many as four new schools joining the league as soon as 2017. Life moves fast in conference realignment and Schroeder isn’t the first respected reporter to report inaccurate information regarding unpredictable developments, particularly as they relate to the Big 12.

While dozens more questions exist than answers regarding what the Big 12 may do and what the domino effect will be, I can make the following statements with absolute certainty and accuracy.

1. If a good candidate for Big 12 expansion existed, it already would be in the Big 12. The Big 12 fully vetted more than a half dozen of expansion’s “usual suspects” – UCF, USF, Connecticut, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Boise State, etc. – earlier this summer and decided none of them provided adequate value to merit inclusion into the league.

What changed? The ACC’s announcement of a linear cable channel with ESPN to debut by 2019 and a grant of media rights by the league’s members through the 2035-2036 academic year. Faced with the ACC joining the SEC and Big Ten on the other side of the Power Five conference financial divide, the Big 12 decided inaction was suicide.

If an attractive piece of real estate – say, Louisville – still were on the market, the Big 12 would have scooped it up months ago. As it stands, the Big 12 must now sort through a variety of properties, all of whom have positives but also negatives.

2. The only reason BYU isn’t already in the Big 12, or wasn’t invited into the Pac-12 40 years ago, is because of its Mormon affiliation. From its academic reputation to its strong national brand, global following, athletic prowess and access to Salt Lake City TV market, BYU checks all of the expansion boxes. Its Mormon affiliation, though, is at complete odds with the liberal sensibilities of the college administrators who vote on which schools to invite to their conferences.

Conference realignment, ultimately, is about who your school wants to hang out with. Are the Big 12 presidents desperate enough in 2016 to invite the Cougars?

3. No school currently in the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 or ACC will be leaving to join the Big 12. Not Arkansas, not Missouri, not Nebraska, not Arizona.

Despite what Kansas State coach Bill Snyder thinks.

4. The SEC and Big Ten still hold the best hands when it comes to conference realignment. If either wanted to sink the Big 12 by extending invitations to Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas or any combination thereof, it could.

5. No issue surrounding college football in the 20-plus years I’ve covered the sport has been more widely misunderstood by the media covering it. Absurd commentary is made daily by media members completely ignorant to the factors that influence realignment decisions.

I’m not talking about Schroeder, who does a bang-up job, nor am I going to name names when it comes to the clueless. What I will do is share names of those who have a firm handle on the intricate mosaic that dictates expansion moves: Andy Staples from Sports Illustrated, Dan Wolken from USA Today and @FranktheTank111 on Twitter. (Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but I’ve followed the guy for five years and he knows his stuff.)

6. “After all is said and done, more is said than done.” This quote is attributed to Greek storyteller Aesop and applies perfectly to conference realignment. Between now and whenever the Big 12 decides to act, or not act, you’ll hear any number of fantastic rumors. Remember, far more of these rumors will prove inaccurate than accurate.

7. Cincinnati will be among the schools the Big 12 adds if it moves forward with expansion.

(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)

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