Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby made some interesting remarks about the current climate of conference realignment during Big 12 men’s basketball media day on Oct. 20.
During the session with media members in Kansas City, Mo., Bowlsby hinted that the league would entertain the possibility of moving beyond 12 teams:
"For a while, we’ll be 14 members. . . We’ll play with 14 for while, then we’ll fall back to 12, and we’ll reassess at that point. That could entail looking at targets of opportunity for additional expansion. It could entail a strategy to get larger."
Bowlsby referred to the fact that OU and Texas may stay through the time determined in their agreement with the Big 12 while the additional schools are added from the independent ranks (BYU) and the American (Cincinnati, Houston, and Central Florida). This would potentially swell the league to 14 members for a short time before the Sooners and Longhorns depart for the SEC.
Would the Big 12 Conference truly benefit from adding additional teams beyond 12, based on commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s recent remarks?
Would the conference truly benefit from expanding beyond 12 teams, though?
Based on the latest round of additions from the Big 12 this fall, it seems that the first teams left out were Boise State and Memphis.
The league clearly isn’t shy about moving westward back into the Mountain Time Zone after the departure of Colorado to the Pac-12 10 years ago. The Broncos would add a highly successful football program to the league in addition to serving as a suitable travel partner for Provo, Utah-based BYU.
Memphis, on the other hand, is an upstart program with decent success in the American. It’s located in SEC territory near the Tennessee Volunteers, Arkansas Razorbacks, and both Mississippi schools.
Beyond adding these two schools, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to expand unless the Big 12 is in a position to poach schools from other power conferences in the future.
Bowlsby may have tempered the expansion expectations by describing the new-look league’s strength in men’s basketball, which was the focus of the Oct. 20 media showcase:
"I feel very good about the four that we’ve brought in. We’re here talking about men’s basketball, and I think these four schools bring remarkable strength to the Big 12. We’re already pretty strong."
Adding strong basketball traditions like Cincinnati and Houston is a huge plus for the Big 12, which is already regarded as one of the nation’s best conferences on a yearly basis.
BYU is no stranger to Jimmer Fredette-inspired success in March Madness, as well, and even Central Florida reached the tourney’s second round with a 24-9 squad three years ago.
It won’t, though, come down to success in men’s basketball that will determine future waves of Big 12 expansion. If there are successful football programs that could strengthen the league’s on-field product rather than mere TV market numbers (more Boise State than UTSA or Charlotte), then the Big 12 should act accordingly.