After the SEC poached Texas and Oklahoma while the Big Ten, PAC 12, and ACC announced some kind of weird nonaggression gentlemen’s agreement, the Big 12 was left to fend for itself in many ways.
Facing a future lack of viability with just eight teams, clearly some kind of expansion was going to be required. But with the other three conferences closing ranks, that left the Big 12 looking to the Group of 5 and independents for candidates. Today, after being rumored for a while, the conference officially invited four new schools.
Via the Big 12’s announcement:
The Big 12 Conference Board of Directors this morning voted to extend membership invitations to Brigham Young University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Houston to join the Conference.
Today’s actions were in accordance with Big 12 Conference Bylaw 1.5.2.b.3 requiring an affirmative vote of a supermajority of Directors, and was approved unanimously by the eight continuing members.
As necessary, institutional Boards will be in session today to act on Big 12 Conference membership.
Three of those schools are currently members of the American Athletic Conference, whose leadership probably isn’t that happy today; whatever the AAC does to replace the lost teams will kick off a round of midmajor realignment as well, although the ripple effects there won’t be nearly as strong as the OU/UT departure. The fourth, BYU, is a football independent. So, what does this mean for the league?
Well, obviously these are four solid football programs. They’re not on the same level as Oklahoma or Texas when it comes to prestige, history, revenue generation, and more, but of the schools the Big 12 was likely choosing from, it’s hard to argue with the selection. Geographically, they fit the conference; they either sit within the current footprint or expand it in ways that make sense.
They’re also adding four football teams who have flirted with the College Football Playoff in recent years despite being outside the Power 5. Considering this move is almost entirely about maintaining relevance as a football conference, that’s a big win. Obviously the finished product is going to be a step down from a league with perennial playoff contender Oklahoma (and whatever Texas is now), but by taking some of the best of the Group of 5/independents, they probably still will keep hold of Power 5 status, inasmuch as that’s a tangible concept.
Plus, hey: they’ll have twelve schools again!