Big 12 football: Chuck Neinas is set on 10 schools
The Big 12 has settled on 10 schools for the foreseeable future. Its new commissioner might be the reason why.
During a meeting with OU regents last weekend, interim commissioner Chuck Neinas professed himself an avid proponent of a 10-team league, according to a source in attendance.
“He doesn’t feel we should have any more conference championship games,” the source said. “He also feels every team should play each other, because the division thing doesn’t work.”
That’s nonsense, of course. Divisional play worked just fine for 15 years in the Big 12. It’s worked famously in the SEC. In fact, it’s worked so well that the Big Ten and Pac-10 expanded to 12 teams to institute divisions and a conference title game.
Neinas told the regents that the 10 teams currently committed to the Big 12 in the future — TCU and West Virginia joining, with Missouri and Texas A&M leaving — provide a solid base and any other additions would be a stretch. “Basically, he said that top-25 teams, they stay the same every year,” the source said. “He said the cupboard is bare. He feels we’re better off playing each other and that’s the end of it.”
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione is a supporter of expansion back to 12 but said that Neinas could be attempting to instill stability in the conference. “I think what Chuck might be doing is settling everything down, not letting speculation develop,” Castiglione said. “He may very well believe that staying at 10 is the best thing, and I respect that. But I don’t believe we should stay at 10, not with other moving parts.”
Those moving parts are the expanding conferences. The ACC and the SEC to 14 schools. The Pac and Big Ten to 12. The Big East hopes to get to 12 football schools. In that landscape, the Big 12 at 10 teams appears weak and vulnerable.
A Big 12 source who supports further expansion said the addition of Louisville is important to West Virginia, which sits 871 miles from the nearest Big 12 member. “We have to explore what type of growth would have to be better for our conference,” the source said. “There’s no data that a conference of 16 is better than a conference of 12. In our case, the number is not the issue so much as the quality.
“But to make it better for West Virginia, we have to add Louisville. For our conference stability, adding Louisville is good for us because it would be good for West Virginia. The more we can get people to start talking about the greater good, the more stable this conference can become.”
The Big 12 source said
Earlier this week, Dennis Dodd of cbssports.com reported that Neinas senses that the BCS could be moving away from automatic-qualifying status — that major bowl assignments could be determined completely by the BCS rankings. I think Neinas is crazy for thinking that. I don’t see the Big Ten or Pac-12 supporting such a move, since it could threaten their traditional Rose Bowl pairing. I don’t see the ACC or Big East supporting it, either, since in recent years they haven’t routinely produced a top-10 team. So you’re talking about the SEC and the Big 12 as the lone soldiers for that cause.
But Neinas said something similar to the regents. “We shouldn’t have to go out to the Fiesta Bowl and play Connecticut,” the source said Neinas said. UConn last season won a tiebreaker for the Big East’s automatic BCS berth, despite an 8-4 overall record. The Sooners beat the Huskies 48-20.
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