I had planned on leaving the office a little bit early today, since I promised my family I’d take them camping, and this time of year is especially slow on college football news.
But here we are, late on Friday, and much of BYU Twitter is talking about Big 12 expansion again. Maybe that’s because a few Twitter accounts that have historically been prominent in realignment discussions are pushing the narrative. Maybe it’s because a few people are citing “sources”. Maybe it’s something else.
We’re getting close to when we actually get some dang hard and fast answers, though. So before I head to the woods for a day or two, here’s a few thoughts on where we are.
What do we actually know at this point?
Using a conservative definition of “know”, not a lot. The Big 12 sent out an announcement today that there will be a press conference call with Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, along with Oklahoma university president Dave Boren on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 19, 30 minutes after the Big 12 Board of Directors meeting. July 19, interestingly enough, is also the second day of Big 12 Media Days. There will be a lot of reporters around.
In previous interviews, Bob Bowlsby has indicated that this meeting is when conference administrators will actually make some decisions about expansion. It is expected that this conference call will discuss, among potentially other topics, Big 12 expansion, on some level.
What decision are Big 12 administrators expected to make?
On July 6, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports published a report quoting Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione as saying that "There aren't any signs that we'll talk anymore about expansion for a little while”, with an additional Big 12 source saying that Big 12 expansion is “dead”.
Also on July 6, David Ubben, a writer who has covered the Big 12 for several years, tweeted that the Big 12 is not going to expand on July 19:
The idea the Big 12 will make a "final" decision on July 19 is absurd. It's not going to expand. The conversation won't stop. Status quo.— David Ubben (@davidubben) July 6, 2016
Additionally, Dennis Dodd tweeted this late on Friday:
Tuesday conference call with Big 12 board not expected to advance expansion talk.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 15, 2016
So there’s a few serious voices saying not to get your hopes up.
Have there been any national or prominent writers who have said differently?
If there have been, I’ve missed them. While there haven’t been major dispatches on the Big 12 front over the last week or so (many writers are either on vacation, or covering SEC/Pac-12 Media Days), no major newspaper reporter or national voice has written anything to suggest expansion is imminent.
Have you heard anything differently?
You can find almost anything you want to read on the internet, but in terms of anything resembling a plugged-in source, I haven’t heard anything that would make me question where Dodd and Ubben are. I’m certainly not as plugged in as either of them, but I have talked to a few people, and there’s not much buzz towards anybody making a major decision.
If the Big 12 does not decide to expand now, could they still revisit the issue?
Sure. I’m not sure the rationale that would make some schools desire expansion are going away after this offseason, should the conference remain at 10 teams. I’m sure the Big 12 will address their timetable on the call.
Is it possible the Big 12 decides to expand and that folks are wrong?
Sure, this is the Big 12 we’re talking about. But that would surprise me, and would require an about-face from Oklahoma’s AD. Remember, Oklahoma has been the most important force pushing Big 12 expansion. I am not expecting the Big 12 to decide to expand.
Will the Big 12 vote on BYU, or anybody else?
I’m not sure. It is certainly possible, but “vote” might be a semantic distinction at this point. If I hear anything substantive on this process, or if something is published, we will try to share it with you.
What do you think will happen?
Putting aside what I can say I know with my reporter hat on, my educated guess is that there is still not unanimity within the conference about wanting to expand, with Texas leading the way, and a small number of other schools remaining skeptical as well. Other factors, like figuring out the TV financial implications of possibly going to an eight conference game schedule, who the 12th team would be, political factors, and more, make achieving consensus difficult.
My best guess is that if the conference actually decided to do this, either with a football-only invite or a full invitation, BYU would be the very near the top of the list. But I don’t expect that to happen next week.
So we might have to do all of this again?