It’s been a few weeks since the Big 12 threw open the doors of expansion after conference Media Days, and despite multiple reports indicating the conference would prefer to put the issue to bed before the start of football season, hard, fast and sourced updates have been somewhat sparse.
But things may be starting to slowly come into picture now.
BYU fans across Twitter reacted strongly to a tweet from Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Jason Williams. Williams has been tasked to follow Big 12 realignment, and the Enquirer, thanks to FOIAs and other reporting tools, has closely documented Cincinnati’s quest to join the conference:
Source: BYU Big 12's No. 1 overall. Oklahoma wants Cincy. Texas of course wants Houston. Don't be surprised if compromise is Cincy & Houston— Jason Williams (@jwilliamscincy) August 7, 2016
On the surface, this would pass the sniff test as something that’s plausible. We’ve written, along with others, that Oklahoma appears to have the key leverage in these discussions, given that Texas has been rather public about their desire for Houston. The Sooners have been tied to preferring both BYU and Cincinnati, and the idea that they could fold on the Cougars to bring in the Bearcats certainly seems within the realm of possibility.
Would it be a little strange to punt on the one program everybody seems to like the most in order to placate the two powers of the league? Probably, but this is the Big 12 we’re talking about here.
But “realm of possibility” is a far cry from “done deal”. Late last week, Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News, another reporter with an ear close to the decision-makers of this story, wrote that “no one school has the eight votes necessary for membership”, per the industry sources he spoke to. That jives with what I’ve heard and read as well, and while individuals at certain schools (including BYU) may feel very confident about their situation, nobody is in in yet, and things can certainly change.
Even the full-throated endorsement of Houston’s Big 12 candidacy may not loom quite as large as it did say, last week, given that some of those politicians have also endorsed SMU.
Williams also noted that his tweet was based on a scenario where only two teams were added, one that he handicaps as being most likely. The conference still stands to make more money from four, but perhaps strong complaints from broadcaster partners could provide an incentive to limit their short term cash grab.
If the Big 12 is serious about wrapping this up before the first game, they’re running out of time.