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Evaluating the Big 12’s Expansion candidates

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Boise State v BYU Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Let’s evaluate Big 12 potential additions, beyond the lies, damned lies and statistics.

It’s last call at an Applebees happy hour in Cincy and there’s a scrapbooking convention in town. Quick - grab a 3 before there are only 2s left...

BYU

The Cougars represent the best expansion option by a mile. They’re actually a solid 7. Frankly, they offer more than half of the current Big 12 members. A legitimate national fanbase and legitimately expansive television market, good athletic teams in revenue sports, a big-time football environment (stadium capacity would be 3rd in the league), and prolonged athletic success (football is 93-37 over last ten years, hoops consistently competitive) that has been coaching agnostic. As a value add, it’s an enjoyable road trip (at least if you favor the great outdoors over tailgating).

The main objections will be centered around their refusal to play on Sundays and potential cultural issues. The former can be accommodated (including perhaps a football only alignment) and the latter is overblown. BYUTV is presented as an issue for conference networks, but that’s a good thing if Texas wants to preserve the LHN.

Cincinnati

The Bearkats have a 28 million dollar athletics budget - which would be the lowest in the Big 12. Their football stadium holds 40,000. Blech. They deliver Ohio though, right? Not quite. They’re the #4 local option in their city behind the Bengals, Reds, Buckeyes, but you’ll hear many promises of how they’ll deliver the Cincy market more surely than Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap in their heyday. Their football has been solid and somewhat coaching agnostic. Basketball, too.

They have a middling fanbase, at best, and Cincinnati is known as one of...America’s cities.

It’s a commentary on the absurdity of this field that they’re probably considered the prestige candidate after BYU.

Houston

Long championed by parochial hoopleheads who can’t distinguish a coach who will be gone in two years from lasting program infrastructure (how did that Baylor-Briles thing work out? In fact, how did that Houston-Briles thing work out?), the Cougars are a commuter school with an indifferent fanbase set in a city that looks to Caracas for its zoning laws and Bangladesh for its climate. The conceit that they deliver the Houston media market is amusing and last year’s BCS team played to rowdy crowds of empty seats in a 40,000 seat stadium.

Their main appeal seems to be to folks who don’t understand how or why someone would wish to expand their conference. Given the Big 12’s track record, that means I can only favor their chances if they expand to 14.

Memphis

A much crappier Houston absent a functioning surrounding economy. A poor, corrupt commuter school always flirting with some sort of NCAA sanctions whose coach just abandoned them after two years for that amazing post-Beamer Virginia Tech job. Their 10 year football record is 46-78 with seven losing seasons. Before their little two year recent run in the mighty AAC (19-7!) with a NFL 1st round draft pick QB and now departed head coach Justin Fuente, the Tigers were 12-48 in the previous five years, including a 47-3 loss to Arkansas State.

Newsflash: John Calipari is at Kentucky. Has been for awhile.

That Memphis is even being discussed gives you some idea of the dregs being considered.

UCF

Went 0-12 in football last year after a 31-7 3 year run. It’s almost like schools like this aren’t built on solid foundations of tradition and excellence and trends lines can be deceptive? Listless commuter school with a large enrollment of kids who might have been too dumb for even Florida State, though half of the school’s attendees are either devout Florida, Miami or FSU fans. It’s advantage is a mega-enrollment of 61,000, guaranteeing that UCF will boast a robust group of middle management Circuit City employee alumni thirty years hence. With those numbers, their endowment will soon rival Harvard. Hartford. Whatever. Same shit. Orlando is a soul-killing affliction of a city, the Big 12 would be taking the state of Florida’s sloppy fourths and is this type of profile starting to repeat itself?

USF

Read above, but halve the number of students and put it in Tampa. They filmed Magic Mike there.

Boise State

They play good football and the Boise State system is bigger than any one coach. They provide no value add in other sports, no real television market and they have subpar academics. Boise is a nice little city. They’re a strategic total dead end. Might be discussed as a football only option?

Colorado State

Boise State but with bad football (52-73 over last 10). Fort Collins is pretty. You can eat hashish brownies at your tailgate. If we’re going to make horrific decisions, do it somewhere nice?

UCONN

Football, big fanbases and television sets are the drivers of expansion (not that you can tell from most of the candidates we’re entertaining), but the Huskies have a good enough corrupt basketball program to warrant some attention in a castrated field. It’s a dubious geographical fit and Storrs is an Indian casino 2.5 hour drive from New York City. But it delivers the NYC market! Just as Abilene delivers the Austin market.

We’re always told that ESPN wants UCONN to be in a power conference because they share the same boring state, but if that were true they probably wouldn’t be in the Nutmeg Conference right now. UConn fans want to play in the real Manhattan, not the KSU version.

If anyone mentions women’s basketball in the comments, I’m going to slap you.

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If anyone would like to discuss the merits of Yeshiva, Alcorn State, Wellesley, Colorado School of Mines, or Abilene Christian, I’m game.

Given that this is a realignment talk, I’m also delighted to discuss the recurring themes of how time zones actually work, that Texas (the university of) already delivers Texas (the state of) and explain why the SEC isn’t pursuing TCU.

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