With the Big 12 Conference potentially featuring 14 teams for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, it’s time to look at how the league will split its teams into two seven-team divisions.
Dennis Dodd of CBS reported that Big 12 athletic directors discussed splitting the league into two seven-team divisions for 2023 and 2024, with the addition of BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston. OU and Texas, who announced plans to join the SEC, might actually wait out their original media rights contracts and stay until 2025.
If that’s the case, the Big 12 Conference will feature 14 teams for two seasons, meaning that that a split into two seven-team divisions will be necessary.
The NCAA says any conference with more than 12 football teams must split into divisions. The split into two divisions also means that the winner of each division would meet in the conference title game. The Big 12 had North and South divisions of six teams each from 1996 to 2010, but has since had just 10 teams playing football and basketball in a round-robin system. Since 2017, the two top finishers in football have met in a newly reinstated conference title game.
The following link provides maps for each of the four proposals:
Here are four proposals for the best way to temporarily divide the league into two seven-team divisions:
Version A: “The North/South” Big 12
South Division: BYU, Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas, TCU, Houston, and Central Florida
North Division: OSU, OU, Kansas, Kansas St., Iowa St., Cincinnati, West Virginia
Strengths: OU and Texas are already in separate divisions, so they can each be trimmed off upon their departure to the SEC to leave two six-team divisions. This setup preserves two geographic clusters in KU-KSU-ISU and Cincy-WV, which seem to make the most sense. Match that with the five Texas schools together, and this is a North-South reiteration that makes sense for the Big 12 in the present and the future.
Version B: “The East/West” Big 12
East Division: TCU, Baylor, Texas, Houston, Central Florida, Cincinnati, and West Virginia
West Division: BYU, Texas Tech, OU, OSU, Kansas St., Kansas, and Iowa St.
Strengths: This proposal avoids the awkward mix of UCF and BYU (which are 2,300 miles apart) in the same division while also separating OU and Texas in separate divisions. OSU stays with the Kansas schools and Iowa State in this scenario, as well as Texas Tech.
Version C: “The Bedlam Split” Big 12
East Division: OSU, Kansas, Kansas St., Iowa St., Cincinnati, West Virginia, Central Florida
West Division: BYU, Texas, OU, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, and Houston
Strengths: This divisional split guarantees that OU and Texas cannot meet in the Big 12 title game, as they’re both in the West Division. Besides being vindictive to the two soon-to-be SEC schools, this setup puts OSU on a northward and eastward focus.
Version D: “The Lone Star Split” Big 12
East Division: OSU, OU, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Central Florida, Houston, Baylor
West Division: Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, BYU, Kansas, Kansas St., Iowa St.
Strengths: This setup gives each non-Texas Big 12 football team a guaranteed road game in the Lone Star state, which is great for recruiting purposes (especially if that aligns around either the Dallas or the Houston metro area). OU and Texas can each be removed after two seasons, while OSU would still have two Texas schools each year on the schedule despite losing the Jayhawks, Wildcats, and Cyclones from its division.
Given that OU and Texas are already separated in this proposal and each school gets some kind of consistent access to the state of Texas, this option may be the Big 12’s best way to separate divisions.