If Mizzou bolts, where does Big 12 turn?
The Big Ten has announced that it will take another look at expansion, with an eye toward a 12th team that would enable the conference to split into divisions and stage a conference championship football game.
Among the teams labeled as possibilities: Notre Dame (as always, but unlikely), Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, Missouri and Nebraska.
Missouri and Nebraska have been together since 1907, when the Missouri Valley Conference was formed. The Valley eventually became the Big Six, Seven, Eight and 12.
Both have their attractions and turnoffs to the stodgy Big Ten. Nebraska brings huge football tradition but little less. No basketball clout. No academic clout. Missouri has become a solid football program; as good as any Big Ten program outside Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State. Missouri’s basketball prowess is solid, too, and its academic standing is at least closer to the Big Ten’s haughty view of itself.
Either school would have to change its recruiting focus if it changed leagues. Both NU and MU make Texas more of a priority in recruiting, with good reason. The Huskers and Tigers now make regular trips to Texas, averaging at least one game a year south of the Red River and a trip to Oklahoma every other year.
What would the Big 12 do if it lost a school to the Big Ten? There is no automatic replacement.
The Big 12 would turn to Arkansas but likely would be rebuffed. The Razorbacks reap great financial rewards in the Southeast Conference. The Hogs’ recruiting in Texas, a natural base of talent, has suffered since it left the Southwest Conference, but Arkansas just began an annual series with Texas A&M in Arlington, trying to counter those effects.
The Big 12 could try to steal a Brigham Young or Utah and create a Rocky Mountain wing of the North Division, with Colorado. Both Utah and BYU are very competitive in both football and basketball. I always thought Louisville would make a good addition to the Big 12, but the Cardinals make more geographic sense if they replace Colorado, not Missouri.
Much more likely for the Big 12 is adding a team from South and moving Oklahoma State to the North Division. The only downside to an OSU move North is what to do with Bedlam scheduling, both football and basketball. But that could be worked out.
The Cowboys probably would love it for competitive reasons, though it could hurt recruiting in Texas. OSU now plays at least two games in Texas every year.
The Big 12 could add Texas Christian. That would hurt the Big 12 on television sets — TCU adds none; Missouri’s departure would cost the league some viewers — and basketball, but not football. TCU’s 10-year run has solidified that program. The Frogs are not flashes; they are a legit program.
No one else in Texas should appeal to the Big 12. Truth is, New Mexico would be a better addition than Houston or anyone else. The Lobos are capable of playing big-time basketball and capable of producing a football following in a state that craves big-time sports.
Chances are, the Big 12 remains the same. But you’ve always got to be prepared.
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