After firing off missives about why the Big 12 should expand, and specifically, why they should add Cincinnati and BYU, I thought I'd be done writing about Big 12 expansion for at least a little while. But conference leadership cares little for my preferred publishing schedule, and now the story is back in the news. Here's a run down of the latest updates, and what they mean:
Wait, why is everybody talking about this again? Are y'all that desperate for #clicks?
There's a legitimate reason for this, I promise. Yesterday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, ahead of some significant league meetings, told reporters that the consultants the league hired determined that a 12-team conference with eight conference games gives the Big 12 the best chance at making the College Football Playoff.
Said consultancy came up with an oddly specific number as well:
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said data from Navigate Research indicates a football title game improves playoff chances by 4-5 percent.— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) May 2, 2016
How this group managed to come up with exactly 4-5%, given that we have a sample size of exactly two, based on the subjective opinions of a dozen or so people on a secret ballot...well, that's beyond me. That's why I am a humble writer, and not a high-paid college football consultant. SBNation.com wrote a little bit this morning about why trying to assign some statistical probability to this feels pretty silly, and I have to admit, I agree.
Does this mean that the Big 12 is going to expand now?
Not necessarily, since that data doesn't seem to show an overwhelming advantage to expansion. Perhaps league institutions are comfortable putting themselves at a "five percent" disadvantage in order to preserve their status quo, financial arrangements, etc. Per the DMN:
"Some would say we want every advantage we can get," Bowlsby said. "Others may say it's not enough to blow up a good scheduling model."
"This will probably persuade some people one way or the other," said Bowlsby, who is in town for Big 12 spring meetings at the annual Fiesta Summit.
We'll probably get a better idea about this later this week, after Big 12 athletic directors get a better look at the data. If there are schools on the fence about adding teams though, this probably would help give them a push.
Well, are there any of those? What do the individual schools think about this?
You probably already know that Oklahoma and WVU are pro Big-12 expansion. The Cincinnati Enquirer, perhaps the local paper that has been best plugged into this story outside of the Big 12 footprint, has the breakdown as follows:
It's believed seven of the 10 schools favor expansion. But Big 12 bylaws call for a super majority vote of 75 percent (so at least eight schools) to make a major change. Texas is believed to be influencing Texas Tech's and Texas Christian's decisions to also be reluctant to expansion.
Texas Tech has long fallen in line with Texas. Both are public universities that have been in the same league together since 1956, when they were in the Southwest Conference. Texas and Texas Tech were founding members of the Big 12 in 1996.
TCU is believed to be following Texas' lead because the conference's power broker reportedly helped the Horned Frogs get into the Big 12 four years ago.
I can't independently confirm all of those, and haven't seen a few of them elsewhere, but this passes the sniff test to me. I would argue that TCU and Texas Tech are probably voting against their long-term interests by opposing expansion, but I can understand there may be reasons for hesitancy.
Still, if the Enquirer is right, only one school needs to change its mind for the Big 12 to expand.
Do you know anything about how schools are trying to change their mind?
A little bit. We knew that those three institutions were leaning against expansion for a little while. TCU, as a private institution, is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, but Texas and Texas Tech are. We asked both schools for every email sent from the AD or President's Office from a Big 12 expansion candidate (BYU, Memphis, UCF, USF, Houston, Cincinnati, UConn) over the past year (through April 8th, 2016).
Cincinnati was the only program to email Texas Tech during that span. Cincinnati, Memphis and Houston all emailed Texas. It is possible the Houston correspondence had nothing to do with athletics or expansion, but it is pretty unlikely that was the case for Cincinnati or Memphis. Cincinnati wrote multiple times, Memphis on Dec 14, 2015. Here's what it looks like:
If you're interested in seeing that pamphlet, you can read it here.
Cincinnati's dogged efforts to lobby Big 12 leaders have not been a secret. The Enquirer wrote about some of their correspondence with Oklahoma, Kansas State and others. I had a chance to watch Cincinnati's promotional videos. There's probably more content out there. If I see anything from any other candidate program, I will share it.
So BYU hasn't sent anything? Does that mean BYU isn't a candidate?
It might be a little strange that nobody from BYU's athletic department or presidency has emailed anyone at Texas or Texas Tech in the last year. It's possible there could be correspondence in the last month. It's possible any communication happened only over the phone (we've asked for phone records too). It's possible any communication has only happened through intermediaries. It's possible BYU has lobbied other Big 12 institutions. It's also possible they haven't reached out at all.
Since BYU is also private, and a notoriously tight-lipped athletic department, we can't just ask them directly. Given Tom Holmoe's public comments about the Big 12, I would be beyond shocked if the administration wasn't actually trying to make this work.
So what's the timeline like here? Is there going to be a major announcement soon?
I guess that depends on your definition of soon. Today, or this week? Probably not. Bob Bowsby's comments come out ahead of Big 12 meetings involving program athletic directors and coaches. University presidents (the people who actually make the conference realignment decisions) will meet from May 31-June 3. ADs will also attend the later meeting.
It is theoretically possible that a decision could come before then, but it's more likely that the big news will happen at, or after, the meetings in four weeks. It's also possible that any big decisions could happen weeks, or even months, after the June meetings, although I imagine Big 12 leaders would love to finally put an end to this speculation, and present some semblance of unity and stability for the conference.
Tl;dr, what does this mean for BYU?
Comments yesterday would seem to indicate that expansion appears a little more likely, although we'll get a better idea after we hear more about the simulations. Everything I have heard/read would suggest that BYU would be on the short list of candidates, a list that would also include Cincinnati (my heavy favorite) and UConn. I do not have reason to believe Houston is being seriously considered. A decision to add programs not on that list would really surprise me, but again, this is the Big 12 we're talking about here.
Typically, the offseason means it's hard to find things to talk about. But this soap opera doesn't seem to be getting canceled any time soon.