Expansion talk has swirled around the Big XII ever since TCU and Baylor were left out of the initial College Football Playoff with one loss each. During Big XII media days, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said that the conference is likely to expand and may be adding either two or four teams. This is tremendous news to a number of teams in Group of 5 conferences looking for what could possibly be their last, best hope of being real players in the college football world going forward. Here’s who the Big XII should add and why.
Cincinnati – The Bearcats have been one of the more solid and stable Group of 5 teams the last couple of years. They’ve also been something of a coaching talent factory (their last three coaches were Butch Jones, Brian Kelly and Mark Dantonio, all of whom are now at big time schools). Tommy Tuberville is currently the coach and he has Big XII coaching experience (he spent three seasons at Texas Tech). They just recently renovated and expanded Nippert Stadium to seat 40,000, though it would still be the smallest stadium in the Big XII. Adding Cincinnati would help close the geographic gap between West Virginia and the rest of the conference. It would also allow Big XII teams to recruit in Ohio, which produces plenty of top talent.
Memphis – The Tigers are a football program that has just come back from the dead. After six consecutive losing seasons, they went 10-3 and 9-4 in the last two seasons. Renovations and improvements have been made to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, which seats 61,008. That would make it the fourth largest stadium in the conference. The Big XII has a tie-in with the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl and has left several sets of fans very impressed with Memphis: Iowa State, West Virginia and Kansas State. Memphis is right smack dab in the middle of SEC country, so it would open up fantastic new recruiting areas. Additionally, it would help close the gap between West Virginia and everybody else. But the biggest thing Memphis has going for it is FedEx CEO Fred Smith is willing to pay untold millions to sponsor the conference and a potential conference title game, but only if the Tigers are added. Memphis also has a home game against Kansas this year, so it’s another chance to impress people from the Big XII.
BYU – The Cougars are a recognizable program with a good tradition, and a national title to their name. They’ve also been good in recent years, going to eleven straight bowl games, winning at least 10 games five times in the process. They have a gorgeous stadium, with a fantastic view of the mountains that seats 63,470 which would make it the third largest in the conference. Being in the state of Utah would allow Big XII teams to recruit in Pac-12 territory.
Those three teams should be mortal locks to add, but after that it gets a little bit trickier. Boise State is a good program and is instantly recognizable with the blue turf, but it’s not a big media market, it’s not prime recruiting territory and it’s far, far away. Colorado State has been thrown out there, and that would also be Pac-12 territory, but their stadium is small (32,500) and there isn’t much history there, recent or otherwise. And adding UCF, USF or UConn would be insane as all three are way too far away, even if Cincinnati and Memphis are added, and none of them are particularly good football teams. Houston is the wild card in all of this. Adding Houston doesn’t give the Big XII anything they don’t already have, but they have a shiny new stadium and they’ve always got a good football team.