by John “The 228” Furgele
Next month, the Big 12 will meet to decide if the conference should expand. This has been an ongoing circus; something the Big 12 absolutely loves. The conference from top-to-bottom is quite weak, but expansion talk is keeping it relevant off the field because the on-field product has been struggling.
There are many rumors and many stories as to what the Big 12 will do. At first, it looked like the conference was going to add two teams, then four. Recently, reports say that the conference will vote NOT to expand and others say that conference might even dissolve. If they do expand, who should be invited? It appears that Houston would be prudent, but the non-Texas schools are afraid that Texas high-schoolers will choose Houston over Oklahoma State or Oklahoma. Playing in Houston is a lot more glamorous than playing in Waco, or worse, Lubbock.
BYU is rumored to be a front runner and football-wise, they would be the most competitive. They can beat Power 5 schools right now and even though it was 1984, the university does have a national championship on its mantle. But, there are issues with their candidacy. They are a religious school, they don’t play athletic contests on Sundays and the school’s Honor Code is said to be discriminatory against the LBGT population. Those are serious obstacles, but ones that can be overcome.
Cincinnati is dying to join and everybody trots out that the Bearcats would give West Virginia a travel partner even though schools have never had those. After these three, there are the directional Floridas and other suspects, but the best option might be the third one from above and that would be dissolution.
The Big 12 is an aforementioned Power 5 conference, but is it? They do have two marquee teams in Texas and Oklahoma. Those two would be coveted by the other four conferences. The Longhorns and Sooners are historical teams and are very important to the current blueprint of college football. The rest of the teams don’t bring much cache. In fact, Kansas and Iowa State are atrociously bad. Kansas might be the worst Power 5 team in the land, so how do they make the Big 12 viable? Yes, they are great in basketball, but this is about football, and the Jayhawks are very bad each and every year.
Iowa State is only slightly better. The Cyclones would be a mid-pack finisher in the Missouri Valley Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision, so why should they remain a Power 5 team? This season, they lost to Northern Iowa and it wasn’t the first time the Panthers won in Ames.
As for Kansas State, once Bill Snyder leaves, the Wildcats will go back to irrelevance. Snyder did an amazing job building the program—it might be the greatest coaching job in the history of college sports—but when he retired the first time, the program languished. The university begged him to come back to restore order and he did so, but he can’t coach there forever. There was a time when the Kansas-Kansas State was a battle to see which team would win one game.
Dissolving the Big 12 gets the football schools closer to their dream which is four 16-team conferences with eight total divisions. Each would have a conference championship game and the winners would automatically qualify for the College Football Playoff. By then, the CFP will have eight teams and the playoffs would be epic. Dissolving the Big 12 makes college football stronger. The good teams would move to a Power 4 conference, while the KU’s and ISU’s would find a conference better suited for them to be competitive. And, it would finally force Notre Dame to abandon its longstanding independence. Financially, Notre Dame is flourishing as an independent, but it really isn’t fair to the other schools, and even less fair to the players. How does Notre Dame recruit against schools that can tell a player that they play for conference championships AND national championships? At 1-3, the Irish really are done in terms of playing high profile games at the end of the year. They won’t make the CFP; they won’t play in a New Year’s Six bowl game and if they’re lucky, they’ll finish 7-5 and play in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Big Ten conference is waiting for them and Texas to get them up to 16 schools.
The SEC would then scoop up the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, one blueblood and one good program. If the SEC can have Mississippi and Mississippi State, it certainly can handle the Oklahomas.
The ACC would need two schools and they would add Cincinnati (from the American) and would take West Virginia. Both are solid in football and basketball and would help the conference going forward. There would be some old Big East nostalgia with Cincy, Louisville, Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh all back together, possibly forever.
The PAC 12 would have to become the PAC 16 (kudos to them for being the only conference to change its name to reflect the actual number of teams that it has). They would have the toughest time, but they would want Houston and BYU. Reluctantly, they would add Texas Tech and Baylor, but they also added Utah so it’s not as bad as it might seem. BYU would definitely add some flavor to the Pac 16. They have a hated rival in Utah and would also have private school brethren with Baylor and Stanford.
Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State are going to be demoted, but hope is not lost. All three will join the American Athletic Conference and the result would be a very solid league. The American would lose Cincinnati and Houston, but with these three and Navy they would have 13 football schools and 12 schools for basketball. They would hold their own in football and would be a serious player in basketball with Connecticut, Temple, Memphis, SMU and the others. One would think adding Massachusetts (currently an independent) makes sense, giving the league 14 football schools and 13 for others.
Army would be the only independent left and given their unique characteristics, they should be able to survive as one. Army has the toughest requirements and because of that, accommodations should be made. The Knights tried Conference USA in the late 1990s and it didn’t go well. Navy wanted to join the American and they have succeeded, much like Air Force has in the Mountain West. But, Army is different. They are an eastern school and many of their eastern foes play at the FCS level. Let Army play two to three FCS schools each year and then schedule schools from the Power 4 and the Group of 5 as they see fit. If they win seven games, put them into a bowl game and let them enjoy it.
There it is, the complete overhaul of college football. 64 schools in four power conferences. The Big 12, like the Southwest Conference would be a lasting memory, but would no longer masquerade as a power football conference. They won’t be missed and college football would be better going forward.