I’d really like to talk about the opener against Houston, but The Athletic is making that quite a challenge with its latest report.
Evidently, the Big 12 Conference has keyed on four schools for expansion in Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and BYU, the latter of which could join as a football-only member. Word is finalization could come this academic year.
This move is going to do the opposite of what it set out to do, which is to elevate the strength of the conference over the long term. There are a few things I dislike about the Big 12 adding these particular schools:
1. It makes no geographic sense
Yeah, West Virginia didn’t make sense either and honestly, it still doesn’t. This appears to be the new reality in college football, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. College football is all about regionalism and proving your area of the country does football better than anyone else. This move further dismantles regionalism and tradition in college football and no one seems to care.
2. Adding Houston hurts Tech (and other Texas schools) in recruiting
As soon as Houston joins the Big 12, hundreds of local kids who would’ve committed to a different Power 5 school in Texas are going to stay home. Tech loses its primary advantage over the Cougars. Believe me, this effect will be felt by every Power-5 school in the state and all the schools who voted Houston in are going to swim in a sea of regret.
3. UCF is comparatively an afterthought in the state of Florida
While UCF does have a large student enrollment, Floridians only care about the Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes. Very few people outside Orlando have any interest in UCF athletics. In fact, the Gators are actually more popular in Orlando than UCF, which is not ideal. And before anyone starts talking trash about how Tech is an afterthought in Texas, no. First of all, Texas has 10 million more people than Florida, with more universities and better football programs. Tech is part of the Big 3 (Texas, Texas A&M & Texas Tech), while TCU and Baylor offer tremendous depth in the state.
4. Adding non-Power 5 schools doesn’t make you more of a Power-5 conference
The Big 12 is reaching down to try and lift itself up. If Bowlsby & co. really wanted to punch back at the SEC and the other Power-5 conferences, it would throw every dollar it could at Arkansas and Louisville, then go back and grab former members Nebraska and Colorado. None of the schools the Big 12 plans to add make this a noticeably stronger conference.
Cincinnati makes at least some modicum of sense because it’s sorta in the Big 12’s geographical range, has decent football and basketball programs and opens up the Ohio market for recruiting. But overall, adding these four schools will ultimately do more harm than good in the bigger picture.
Sometimes, the best action is inaction. Instead, the Big 12 is electing to act in desperation - a move that will ultimately cost it the only remaining relevance it had.