Big 12 football: Ranking the expansion candidates
Big 12 expansion talk is boiling over. Who knows what’s valid and what’s not? But after the Big 12/SEC bowl partnership that was announced a week ago, the Big 12′s instability is a distant memory, and the Big 12 has become a desired locale for many schools. Clemson officials announced Friday that it had staged no valid talks with any other conference but would consider any offers. And we’ve already heard from a Florida State trustee that the Seminoles ought to bolt the ACC.
I don’t think any decisions will be made until after the new playoff format is announced, hopefully this summer. But after that happens, the Big 12 will have a better understanding of what it wants and who wants it. With that in mind, what schools are best for the Big 12? Assuming that schools in the Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten are off limits, let’s rank the other candidates.
1. Notre Dame: I don’t think the Irish will join a conference, and if they do, I don’t think it will be the Big 12. But you’ve got to ask. You’ve got to give Notre Dame the chance to say no. Which I’m sure the Big 12 has. But do it again.
2. Florida State: When Nebraska left for the Big Ten, I didn’t think it was possible to for the Big 12 to adequately replace the Huskers in terms of college football status. But Florida State absolutely would. Stretching the conference to the Florida Panhandle would bring some new challenges, but with West Virginia already in the league, the Big 12 has shown the willingness to think outside the box.
3. North Carolina: UNC is an excellent athlete program with a superb academic reputation, and frankly, the Big 12 could use the latter even more than the former. But Carolina is not likely to leave its ACC roots. If it did, the SEC would be standing there with an invitation, but the Tar Heels clearly are ACC-leaning.
4. Virginia Tech: The Hokies are the best football program in the ACC. Maybe Florida State should be, but VPI is. However, Virginia Tech isn’t likely to leave the ACC. The University of Virginia stuck its neck out to get Virginia Tech into the ACC. It would be a political faux pas for V-Tech to so quickly leave.
5. Clemson: Getting the best football school in an SEC state would be a coup for the Big 12. Clemson is not a national power, but the Tigers are whatever is just below that status. Huge fan base with a big stadium and a good name. Clemson would be an excellent partner to come in with Florida State.
6. Maryland: The Terrapins are a lot like Carolina — not likely to leave the ACC — but would be a good get for the Big 12. Big market, solid athletic program, albeit a little sleepy in football, and close enough to West Virginia to give the Mountaineers a much-needed neighbor.
7. Georgia Tech: Big market and a good-sized name. But Georgia Tech is only the third-biggest football enterprise in its own city (Georgia U., Falcons). G-Tech is likely to stay in the ACC, as much for academics as anything.
8. Pittsburgh: If the Panthers had a do-over, they probably would take the Big 12 over the ACC. Pitt announced last September that it would join the ACC in 2014. A month or so later, West Virginia announced it would join the Big 12. Pittsburgh is going from one football-challenged league to another.
9. Louisville: The Cardinals are the biggest loser in the ACC’s stumble. With some ACC schools possibly on the market, Louisville’s status slides. The ‘Ville remains a viable candidate, though.
10. Brigham Young: The Cougars would be a good addition to any league. Their biggest obstacle is geography. The Big 12 clearly has looked East. To go West would stretch the Big 12 from Morgantown, W.Va., to Provo, Utah. Not likely. Just getting to Provo from the Big 12 mainland is a jaunt.
11. Miami: I know, everyone still looks at Miami as a glamor program. But I don’t buy it. Since Dennis Erickson’s last season (1994), the Hurricanes have reached double-digit victories only four times, 2000-03, and since joining the ACC in 2004, Miami has not even reached the conference championship game. Its fan base is not big, its NCAA credibility is shaky. I wouldn’t touch the U.
12. Virginia: Just like UNC, no way would UVa leave. But if Thomas Jefferson’s school wants to join your conference, you say OK.
13. Rutgers: The New York market is just too much to say no to, compared to a non-football school like North Carolina State or Boston College. The Scarlet Knights would struggle in football and basketball, but you have to take a bite out of the Big Apple.
14. Syracuse: The New York state market would be valuable. Everyone would wonder, though, why the Orange quit being competitive in football.
15. Boise State: The geography is bad, the academic reputation is poor and the overall athletic program weak. But the networks would eat up the new and improved football inventory with Boise State in the league.
16. Air Force: The Falcons have made it clear they don’t want to be in the Big 12. Which is probably just as well.
17. Boston College: The Boston market would be interesting but would make no sense. Texas Tech-Boston College?
18. North Carolina State: Why isn’t N.C. State better at most everything?
19. Duke: Not even Mike Krzyzewski is enough to offset the stinker that is Duke football.
20. Wake Forest: I love Jim Grobe, but no.
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