If this is another false alarm, then so help me God. Just a few weeks ago, the league said the expansion issue was dead. Now the league has authorized the contacting of potential membership targets.
In another incredible turn of events that could finally see an invitation for membership extended to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats sometime soon, the Big 12 Conference has headscratchingly reversed course again, just a month or so after declaring a moratorium on expansion talks and deciding to stand pat at 10 member schools. The league’s presidents have authorized commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin contacting potential candidates for membership to gauge their level of interest in joining the league.
Gauge interest?!?!?! That is the absolute stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time. I wonder what Mike Bohn will say if his phone rings? Gee, I’m not sure. We only sent you all that information because we had extra paper laying around the office, and Prez Ono only flew out there to talk to all of you because jet fuel was cheap. Let us think it over and we’ll get back to you.
Of course the Cincinnati Bearcats are interested. So is this finally it? Who knows. The Big 12 kind of seems a little like the boy who cried wolf at this point. Do they really mean business, or not? But if it means anything, this isn’t a rumor. It’s straight from the league. The conference has officially said: okay, we’re going to move forward with the process of expansion and narrowing a list of candidate schools, and actually contact them about expansion. It’s the first time that the conference has actually come out and said that publicly. So that has to be good for something.
What changed over the last few weeks? Well, a little pressure from other leagues certainly seems to have helped the Big 12 expansion train get back on the rails. The ACC just extended their grant of rights and TV contract for twenty years, through 2036. So those teams are locked up, including former rumored targets Florida State and Clemson, as well as Notre Dame. The TV payday that the ACC just got had to have turned a few heads at Big 12 schools, and probably changed a few minds regarding expansion.
Also, the new ACC contract means that if the domers at ND want to join a conference, it will have to be the ACC – unless they’re willing to wait 20 years. Notre Dame would’ve been the Big Ten’s #1 choice for future expansion, so does this now put the Big 12 in the Big Ten’s crosshairs if the Big Ten goes to 16? Did that put even more pressure on Bowlsby and Company to finally formally consider this? Who knows, but it certainly didn’t hurt the Big 12 expansion love train’s momentum.
So now we can only wait. Again. Wait and see. UC has basically done everything it can do, and seems to be a (if not the) frontrunner. About the only thing that can help now is success on the football field and at the gate this Fall, especially in nationally televised games (read: BEAT HOUSTON!!!).