It was inevitable, TCU and Baylor both missed out on the first college playoff and all signs pointed to the Big 12 lacking a conference championship game as the reason. Big 12 commissioner Bowlsby immediately criticized the committee for penalizing the Conference for not having one.
But the damage was done and now the Conference was left with contemplating how to avoid this situation in the future. Expansion immediately came to the forefront of the conversation. We have now learned that the Big 12 may have already reached out to a possible candidate. The Sporting News reported today that Cincinnati had been contacted stating:
“Big 12 officials recently met with administrators from the University of Cincinnati, a source close to the university told Sporting News. That is not an indication membership will be offered to the Bearcats in the immediate future — only that they would be a candidate were such an expansion to be undertaken.”
Although the article was quick to point out there are no immediate plans to expand it has set the tone that adding two teams to ensure a conference championship game is possibly on the table. Cincinnati was long been rumored to be a candidate for the Big 12. The University has recently renovated Nippert Stadium in an attempt to make them more appealing to other conferences.
Other schools that have been mentioned in the past are BYU and Memphis which gained momentum as a result of a report on ESPN 102.5 The Game out of Nashville, Tennessee.
However, expansion is complex. There are media contracts that coincide with the Big 12 grant of rights. There is the fact that expanding to 12 could potentially cause schools like WVU to NOT play Texas and Oklahoma every year. The loss of those marquee games could result in the loss of millions alone over time.
Despite the rumors that will undoubtedly continue Bowlsby stated on the Dan Patrick Show this morning that there is another angle the conference may try again before conceding expansion is the answer:
“The rule as it currently stands in the NCAA is you have to have at least 12 members, you have to have two divisions and you have to play a round-robin in those big divisions in order to have a playoff game at the end of the year. At a practical level, we don’t have the prerogative to have a game right now. Ourselves and the ACC have put together a proposal that would allow us to have a playoff game with some other format. Essentially, it would deregulate the rule, so that conferences could determine their own use of the playoff game or their own determination of a champion. That will likely get acted upon in the next six months or so.
“Once the rule changes, I don’t know if we’ll have a playoff game or not. It would be a regular-season rematch for certain every year. “I think the one thing we did [learn] here is that a 13-game portfolio may have a slight advantage over a 12-game portfolio, body of work. If that’s the case, we have to acknowledge we’re going into the process at a disadvantage and we have to try to find a way to correct that.”
If deregulation is not the answer then there would be only one logical thing to left to do, expand. However, there are also some disputing the report by the Sporting News that Cincinnati was contacted or even that expansion is on the table. One of those disputing the claims is ESPN college football insider who tweeted out:
Every person I spoke to today that’s from Big 12 or Big 12 school: league is not expanding
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) December 9, 2014
One thing is for sure, The conference is analyzing every angle and you can rest assured that West Virginia University AD and playoff committee member Oliver Luck is right in the middle of those conversations. Whether expansion is the answer is yet to be seen. Deregulation of conference championships could put the ball squarely back in the Big 12’s court.