Saturday, December 27, 2014

KANSAS CITY SPORTS COMMENTARY: The five best and most realistic Big 12 expansion scenarios

Kansas City Kansan Publisher

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- It's that time of year again for more conference realignment rumors!

Following the snubbing of TCU and Baylor from the inaugural College Football Playoffs, rumors have already swirled about the Big 12 adding at least two teams to the conference.

Adding two schools would allow a conference championship game and give more legitimacy to the Big 12, although I am not sure it was needed this season. Both TCU and Baylor were deserving, but just didn't quite have that marketable feature a large school like Ohio State has.

Anyway, if the Big 12 is going to expand, I have five ideas.

These ideas are the most realistic scenarios out there. My dream scenario would be getting the band back together and have Missouri, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Colorado all return to the Big 12. But Missouri's basketball program will make a Final Four before that scenario happens, unfortunately.

Here are the best five scenarios for conference expansion.

OPTION 1: Add Cincinnati and Memphis. 
North Division: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, West Virginia
South Division: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech

Why it works: You expand your map into SEC country with adding Memphis and Big 10 country by adding Cincinnati. You give West Virginia two closer teams to travel to when they head out on the road from Morgantown, WV. Also, this would be the best scenario that benefits both football and basketball. The Big 12 is arguably the best conference in America in basketball. Cincinnati and Memphis are two basketball teams that routinely visit the Top 25 rankings. The Big 12 would absolutely be loaded in basketball. Cincinnati has been solid in football the past 5-10 years, while Memphis had a good year this season.

OPTION 2: Add Colorado State and BYU.
North Division: BYU, Colorado State, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, West Virginia
South Division: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech

Why it works: With the addition of Colorado State, you bring the Denver/Colorado television market back into play. And honestly, Colorado State's football program is significantly better than Colorado at this point, so switching the Colorado schools might be an upgrade for the Big 12. BYU has defeated Oklahoma and Texas in recent years and has proven that it can beat anyone in the country. BYU would be a very solid addition to the conference. Colorado State is 12-0 this season in basketball and Larry Eustachy returning to the Big 12 could be fun. Colorado State might give the Kansas schools a better geographical rival as well.

OPTION 3: Add Boise State and BYU
North Division: Boise State, BYU, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, West Virginia
South Division: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech

Why it works: A Big 12 North division including Boise State, BYU and Kansas State would be very respectable. TCU has proven that it can win a conference with the "Big Boys." Why not Boise State? Since 1998, Boise State football has a record of 182-36. And while a majority of those wins have not come against large schools, Boise State has made an impression nationally. They have marquee wins against Georgia and of course, Oklahoma, in that classic Fiesta Bowl. Hasn't Boise State earned the chance to play with the big boys? These two options may not move the needle when it comes to basketball, but remember, football is 95 percent of the issue when it comes to conference expansion. Boise State and BYU would be quality additions in the football department. They were a combined 19-7 this season on the gridiron. BYU lost some key players during the year or else that record could have been better.

OPTION 4: Add SMU and Houston
North Division: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia
South Division: Baylor, Houston, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech

Why it works: Football wise, this might be the best solution for all parties. This scenario separates Oklahoma and Oklahoma State from the Texas schools. Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have all won conference titles in the past five years. That would be a very good Northern division when you add in West Virginia to the picture. If Bob Stoops can keep Oklahoma going and Charlie Strong can turn around the Longhorns, you have the possibility of an Oklahoma/Texas Big 12 title game. SMU and Houston also recently made very good hires in football, hiring offensive coordinators Chad Morris and Tom Herman respectively. They each coached in the Orange Bowl game in 2014. If they can recruit well, SMU and Houston would be nice additions on the football side of things. Larry Brown has also done a great job turning around the basketball program at SMU.

OPTION 5: Add SMU, Houston and two of the following: Cincinnati, Boise State, BYU and Colorado State. 

Under this scenario, you would have seven teams in each division. You would have 14 total teams in the conference. Is 14 too big? Possibly. But adding four teams would send a message about the stability of the Big 12. Any of these schools mentioned above would be nice additions to the conference. If you add four and get to 14 to match the SEC, it would raise attention to the conference.

Still, I highly doubt this scenario happens ---- but it would be bold.