Even by Big 12 relaignment standards, Wednesday night was a big night for chatter. Not just from egg-avatared Twitter accounts claiming inside #sources, but from multiple mainstream media outlets as well, as the Big 12 reportedly culled its massive list of 20ish interested expansion candidates to...well...a smaller number.
Earlier on Wednesday, a report circulated that had the Big 12 narrowing things down to “6-8” teams, including BYU. But as the day went along, more and more teams were reportedly still in the Big 12 expansion hunt, with only three, East Carolina, New Mexico and UNLV, publicly announcing they were out.
By the time the dust had settled, numerous local TV stations, and then ESPN, tallied up 12 schools that are still talking with the Big 12. It gave us this rather delightful headline.
So, we know, based on school’s issuing press releases, that the Big 12 has at least told SOME schools thanks, but no thanks. Now that the dust has settled, if we’re going to take what’s been published at face value, who’s still in the game?
Based on the ESPN report, that would be BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, UConn, Colorado State, Air Force, UCF, USF, Temple, SMU, Rice and Tulane.
It’s possible there’s another school on that list, Memphis. Memphis was mentioned in the earlier report, from TMGCollegeSports, but ESPN could not collaborate it. The Tigers haven’t been raised as an expansion favorite by many forecasters outside of Memphis, but them being eliminated before say, SMU, would be a relatively big upset.
The other name that’s a bit conspicuous in its absence is Boise State, the program with arguably the most sustained football success over the last few years, and certainly the one with the highest highs. There wasn’t much chatter about Boise’s chances throughout this process, given their location, academic and institutional profile, market, and other factors.
This is just another example of how so many factors that have nothing to do with football are huge in expansion, even though I’m sure that provides little comfort to Boise State fans.
I’m personally a little hesitant to draw too many big conclusions from these “cuts”, given that 12 (or 13) is still a really big number, and outside of maybe Memphis, nobody who was thought to have even a prayer’s chance of admissions has been left off the list yet.
The one thing that jumps out to me about this is that this list could be a testament to the power of personal relationships and history in this process. Tulane can boast a fun location and AAU membership, but they’ve also pitched the Big 12 before, and now have an AD that is close to Bob Bowlsby. Rice and SMU, two middling football programs (at best), are both in Texas and have ties to other Texas administrators. Air Force had been linked to the Big 12 in earlier cycles as well.
The timetable that seems to be advanced now centers around October 17, the Big 12’s next regularly scheduled board of director’s meeting, although ESPN reports that representatives from each school will make pitches in Dallas next week.
Maybe there will be another culling of the proverbial herd before the 17th. Maybe there won’t be. If nothing else, BYU figures to be in the process until the very end. They’ll just spent a little more time in the same conversation as Temple and Air Force to get there.