Report: Cincinnati and UConn Top Big 12's 'Fluid Wish List'

Wednesday, July 20th 2016, 3:34 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger

Tuesday's Big 12 Media Day sure didn't lack its share of fireworks.  

After the debacle down in Baylor stole the show throughout the early portion of the day, the conference made an announcement that really raised some eyebrows following a meeting between school presidents. In a teleconference with reporters, OU president David Boren announced that commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been cleared to explore possible expansion for the conference, and credited the recent interest from schools to join the Big 12. 

Wait, what?

"We had a discussion of the future makeup of the conference going forward -- the entire structural issues for the conference, how to make the conference stronger," Boren said. "And a number of universities, as you well know, have contacted the Big 12 to express interest in our conference. And the board today directed the commissioner to actively evaluate their interests and to report back those evaluations which he will make back to the board at a future board meeting."

So despite the overwhelming opinion that conference expansion had stalled due to the lack of interest in a network from its broadcast partners, it is now likely the conference will be growing after all. 

So now the question remains: Who will the Big 12 add?

According to Boren, there's more than one school that wants in the Big 12, but clearly there aren't many obvious choices for the conference to select. Most of the history-rich schools currently reside in other Power Five conferences, leaving the Big 12 with some tough decisions to ensure the conference isn't watered down. 

"We want to find the strongest possible partners for expansion," Boren said. "And we talk about strong partners. We're not talking about just athletic partners, which of course that's very important; what is the fan base; what is the TV following, the broadcast following of these teams. But also what are the academic standards of these schools, what reputations do these schools have as institutions of integrity and shared values with us."

Even though there's strict guidelines to get in the conference, Boren didn't rule out the possibility of not just adding two teams, but left the door open to add four. If that were the case and the Big 12 did indeed add four teams, the broadcast partners would be contractually obligated to increase their total payouts to 40 percent. 

"The provisions, of course, as you know do protect us so that current member shares will not be diluted if we were to add two or four more teams," Boren said. "There's a contractual obligation to pay that additional amount pro rata that we're already receiving if there is an expansion, a hypothetical expansion of the conference. It's already covered in our contracts, does not require additional negotiation of the contracts."

The decision could come as quickly as September according to ESPN, but there's a possibility there may not be an update until the board meeting in October. While the rumors are swirling about who the Big 12 may add, SOE's David Ubben reported that that Cincinnati and UConn sit atop the conference's so called "fluid wish list." 

Cincinnati would be a great addition seeing they have a solid football and basketball program, while also giving a school like West Virginia a geographical partner. UConn, on the other hand, has a well known basketball program but doesn't bring a lot on the front of football. Not to mention the lengthy travel for the schools located in the Midwest.

Even though Bowlsby did say the conference would consider "football only" members, it's important to consider other sports than just football and basketball. For example, do programs really want to fork over the change to send their tennis team all the way to Connecticut for a match? It may work for some athletic programs, but it'll likely be the biggest question when bringing up the Huskies possible entrance to the Big 12. 

There will be plenty of other names of schools that'll be thrown around until a decision is made, but other notable options include BYU, Boise State, Houston, Memphis, UCF and USF. 

One would think Houston is an obvious choice due to the emergence of the football program, but who knows how Texas, Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech would feel about another Power Five school in the state competing for the same recruits. 

There will be hurdles that need to be cleared regardless of whoever the conference chooses, but it's clear the Big 12 do everything in its power to remain relevant in the new playoff era of college football.