The Rest of the Big 12 After Texas & Oklahoma’s Departure

By now, you’ve likely seen the news about Texas and Oklahoma potentially leaving the Big 12 and joining the SEC. While this is far from over, the writing is on the wall for the rest of the Big 12. So what happens to them once the big two leave the Big 12? I see two plausible scenarios:

The Big 12 Goes Full Big East Circa 2012

What I mean by this is that the Big 12 essentially raids the AAC plus a few other teams and hopes to go forward as a shell of a power conference. They would certainly not be as strong as they were with Texas and Oklahoma but this might be the best option for many of the conference members. However, this would mean that each school would essentially be sitting with a prisoner’s dilemma on conference realignment. In any case, the schools that are rumored on the interwebs to potentially receive an invite to the Big 12 in this scenario are:

  • Houston –
    • Perfect geographic fit
    • Good football
    • Final Four in basketball last year
    • Could hurt current Big 12 members’ recruiting in Texas
  • Cincinnati –
    • Good travel partner for WVU
    • Top 10 football contender this year
    • Good basketball
  • UCF –
    • Geographic outlier
    • Good football
    • Solid basketball
    • Largest student population in the country
  • Memphis –
    • Good geographic fit
    • Solid basketball
    • Solid football
  • BYU –
    • Great athletic fit
    • Not terribly outside of geographic footprint
    • Religious affiliation has been an athletic conference challenge in the past but the Big 12 might be willing to overlook that at this point.
  • Boise State –
    • Good travel partner with BYU
    • Great football
    • Basketball not as strong

These six plus the little eight would give the conference 14 members if all elected to join/stay:

  1. Baylor
  2. TCU
  3. TTU
  4. Ok St
  5. Kansas
  6. K State
  7. Iowa State
  8. WVU
  9. Houston
  10. Cincinnati
  11. UCF
  12. Memphis
  13. BYU
  14. Boise State

This conference would be fun as hell. I’m sure someone would emerge as the top dog in football eventually, but at this point it would be the ACC without Clemson. Anyone could take down the conference any given year. And this would be a really strong basketball conference as well! The Big 12 was arguably the strongest basketball conference in the country last year. Add to that a Final Four team in Houston, Penny Hardaway doing Penny things at Memphis, BYU the only team to really challenge Gonzaga in the WCC, and the rest of the teams are not too shabby either. I honestly prefer this option for these teams but let’s look at scenario number two below.

The Big 12 Dissolves Completely

As is surely happening right now, each of the rest of the Big 12 teams are frantically calling commissioners, key athletic directors, and power brokers of all of the other power conferences to try to jump ship if the Big 12 does go the way of the dodo. It seems like worst case scenario for all of these teams would be joining the AAC or some sort of Big 12/AAC hybrid. So, let’s talk about the each of their other options to try to avoid that.

Kansas

Best Case Scenario: B1G

Kansas brings a lot to the table. They are a blue blood in basketball, are an AAU (American Association of Universities) institution academically, are a good geographic fit for the B1G, a good cultural fit as well, and their football facilities are on the rise. The B1G has shown that is is ok with taking comparatively weak football programs if they offer something else that the B1G covets (cough *Rutgers*, cough *Maryland*). If the B1G takes only one former Big 12 program it will be Kansas.

Other Scenario: Pac 12

On the other hand, there is a good chance that the B1G decides not to take any schools in this round of realignment. In which case, Kansas would probably go the Pac. Aside from not being a good geographic or cultural fit, they meet everything else that the conference would seek.

Iowa State

Best Case Scenario: B1G

The Cyclones have an uphill battle in convincing the B1G to let them in. They offer no new geographic territory for the B1G as in-state rival University of Iowa is there. Additionally, the Hawkeyes would likely be staunchly opposed to ISU joining the conference. Iowa State has to hope that being an AAU intuition, their strong football program this year, and decently sized fan base in B1G country will help get them in. They also have to make the business case to the B1G that their fan base will be more valuable in the age of cord cutting and streaming than adding an additional media market.

Kansas State

Best Case Scenario: Pac 12

Oklahoma State

Best Case Scenario: Pac 12

TTU

Best Case Scenario: Pac 12

All three of these schools have to hope that the Pac 12 is interested in creating an Eastern pod that extends out to their territory. They have to be banking on the Pac not wanting the SEC to ascend so far beyond the other conferences and yield too much influence and sway. This might be a stronger if Kansas ends up joining the Pac as well. In which case, the pods could look like:

  • Pac 12 East: Kansas, K State, TTU, Oklahoma St
  • Pac 12 Mountain: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah
  • Pac 12 California: USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal
  • Pac 12 North: Washington, Wazzu, Oregon, Oregon State

WVU

Best Case Scenario: ACC

WVU would be a great cultural fit in the ACC. They come with built in rivals: Pitt, Virginia Tech, and to a lesser extent Syracuse. They are not a strong academic school, so that could keep them out. Football and basketball are both decently strong and I can only see them getting stronger if they can recruit ACC country rather than telling recruits to come to Morgantown, West Virginia where you’ll play schools in Texas and the Great Plains.

TCU

Best Case Scenario: AAC

Baylor

Best Case Scenario: AAC

I can’t see the PAC, B1G, or ACC taking either of these schools for a myriad of geographic, athletic, and cultural reasons plus the fact that they are both private schools. So, unfortunately, they are guaranteed to be left out in the cold in a Big 12 dissolution scenario. Its a real shame with Baylor being the reigning men’s basketball national champions, but as a UConn fan allow me to welcome you to the club. When you play the game of conferences you win or you die, there is no middle ground.

Coincidence that I’ve never seen Cersei and Texas in the same room together at the same time?