On Tuesday during the Big 12 Conference Media Days, the conference announced that commissioner Bob Bowlsby will begin exploring a possible expansion of two to four teams.
The announcement came as a surprise to many, as it seemed the conference was going to hold at ten members even after reinstating the football championship game beginning next season.
“If we are to expand, we want to find the strongest possible partners for expansion,” University of Oklahoma president and Big 12 Board of Directors chairman David Boren said in a teleconference. “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.”
Immediately after the announcement, speculation began on which teams the Big 12 might invite. The most likely teams include BYU, Cincinnati, Memphis, Houston, and UCF. Other teams frequently mentioned are Boise State, UConn, USF, and Colorado State.
“We’ve been contacted by a number of institutions, and I would imagine after this news breaks we’ll be contacted again,” Bowlsby said.
Bowlsby later indicated to CBSSports.com that they have previously been contacted by 25 schools. Those schools will surely be in contact with the Big 12 again if they haven’t already.
Whether the conference ultimately expands by two or four teams, the new members likely won’t be able to officially join the Big 12 until the summer of 2017.
An expansion of the Big 12 by two teams wouldn’t create that much of an effect on other conferences. If it’s two teams, it’s likely going to be BYU and an AAC team like Cincinnati, Memphis or Houston. That would possibly open up a spot in the AAC for UMass, which began playing as an Independent this season.
If four teams are invited to the Big 12, the AAC or the MWC could end up losing one or two members each. That might open up a spot in the MWC for New Mexico State, whose membership in the Sun Belt expires after the 2017 season.
Whatever the case may be, a decision could be made by the conference before October.
“It’s possible that this could extend to our October board meeting, but it’s also possible that we could have a special meeting sometime between now and then,” Bowlsby said.