Big 12 expansion: League so unpredictable that anything could happen Monday
The Big 12 presidents meet Monday and an expansion decision may -- or may not -- be made
There are no absolutes in the Big 12.
We're talking about a conference that gave its best player (Baker Mayfield) an extra year of eligibility -- a day after it originally decided not to.
This is a conference that, without much warning in June, added a league championship game for 2017.
Same for the expansion decision on July 19. Mouths literally dropped for some of us in the room covering the Big 12 media days.
Since then, we've gotten by more on tidbits of gossip than meaty facts. There may have been ulterior motives to Texas' endorsement of Houston. An owner of a hockey team represented South Florida during its in-person presentation to the Big 12.
So for anyone to say expansion is dead, well, that would be dumb. The Big 12 presidents gather this week to make a decision (maybe) on whether to add two teams. Meanwhile, the futures of about dozen schools from three conferences (and an independent) hang in the balance.
"One thing about the Big 12," said one official from an expansion candidate, "it is totally unpredictable."
The default conclusion: Big 12 presidents could walk into their conference room Monday in Dallas and do anything -- or nothing.
"They have to expand, don't they?" an official of one expansion hopeful said. "They wouldn't go all this way and not do anything."
The would and they could.
As the conference (perhaps) brings the expansion process to a conclusion, there doesn't seem to be enough support for any two teams to make the Big 12, well, the Big 12 again.
Except, CBS Sports reported Friday that the process itself may be tabled -- for months.
So expansion isn't dead until someone of substance says it is. And those that matter are hesitant to do that because of the Big 12's unpredictable nature.
Common conclusion: The league will do nothing this week and be ridiculed on the talk show circuit for wasting everyone's time.
Common perception: The Big 12 is headed for oblivion because of all the internal wranglings.
Something to consider: The reason the Big 12 even exists is still valid. The slice of the Midwest from Texas up to the Minnesota border is still valuable demographic property.
The story goes that former Oklahoma athletic director Donnie Duncan and former Texas AD DeLoss Dodds flew to New York 20-plus years ago when the Big 12 became a possibility. They came away with the impression from advertisers that a lot of Chevy trucks could be sold in that slice of the Great Plains.
In 2016, the conclusion still holds. Any conference that includes Texas and Oklahoma is worth televising. Thus, the Big 12 is all but assured of staying together through 2025 (contractually). Perhaps beyond.
If the revenue is relatively the same elsewhere for those two powerhouses when the contract comes to an end, the issue becomes one of competitiveness. The Big 12 may simply be the best place for Texas and Oklahoma to win championships.
Part of the expansion idea is to build a buffer in case Texas and/or Oklahoma do leave. But until further notice, Texas lugs around the burden of the Longhorn Network.
At the moment, that keeps it from going to the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 -- all with their own networks -- and the ACC (launching its own network in 2019).
As for Oklahoma, some Big 12 officials have quietly asked just where the Sooners would go at the moment.
OU is simply not OU in the SEC. That is, it wouldn't dominate. Plus, that league may simply not want another franchise that can beat its flagship schools. The SEC is powerful and rich enough. What does it need with Oklahoma?
The Big Ten isn't taking Oklahoma. Academically, Kansas is a better fit. OU would have to swallow hard if it went to the Pac-12.
An Oklahoma source told CBS Sports in May that the Sooners were "within 30 seconds" of going to the Pac-10 in 2010. But there's also the political ramifications of perhaps having to take Oklahoma State along -- little-brother style -- in whatever conference the Sooners move to.
While we're on Oklahoma, whatever happened to "psychologically disadvantaged?" Those were possibly the two most damaging words in the history of the conference uttered by school president David Boren.
Boren has possibly been the most disruptive figure in the history of the conference. He said in June 2015 the league would be better off with a conference network, expansion and a championship game.
He's one for three. And it remains to be seen whether that championship game will be a College Football Playoff boost for the Big 12.
Meanwhile, expansion teeters on the brink while Boren publicly backs away from it.
Perhaps the second-most compelling statement to come out of Boren's mouth was when I posed this question to him in May: Is Oklahoma committed to the Big 12 through the term of the current TV deal.
"Yes," he said.
We'll hold you do to it, David.
This is a conference that will vote on expansion -- if it even comes to that -- with two interim presidents (Baylor, Kansas State) and another CEO headed out the door. Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has announced she is stepping down next summer.
That's right, a life-changing moment in the conference will be decided by three folks with no future investment in that decision.
As for this preposterous assertion I've seen: "It's not about expansion, it's about the quality of candidates." Well, that's rubbish.
That left pretty much what you see before you today -- minus Louisville, which caught on with the ACC.
The academic, financial and athletic futures of these 11 schools literally do hang in the balance: Air Force, BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, Colorado State, UConn, Houston, Rice, SMU, South Florida and Tulane.
"I'll be by my radio at 5:30 [central] on Monday" for the announcement, one official from an expansion candidate said.
The Big 12 announced late Sunday it will stream its press conference live on its website and Facebook Live at 6:30 p.m. ET on Monday.
Good luck, lobby lounging media guys and girls.
No absolutes? All you need to do is stroll the Texas campus. Within a few steps you can find president Greg Fenves, who has openly endorsed Houston, and those at the school who ask, "What happens when Tom Herman leaves?"
There's already an answer to that. It's called Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin. Houston is on a run that started with those two coaches and doesn't necessarily end when Herman takes that inevitable Power Five job.
If it was about football, BYU and Houston would be expansion no-brainers. But it's not just about football. BYU has honor code issues that may keep it from getting serious consideration.
There are petty political, athletic and geographic issues working against Houston. Five Big 12 schools in Texas? Why not -- considering the Cougars now conduct themselves in every way like a Power Five team.
No absolutes? It would seemingly be in the best interests of Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State to expand. At least those schools could more easily chase bowl berths not having to play Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor and TCU each year.
But what support -- if any -- do the presidents from those three schools have?
No absolutes? Halfway through the season, the psychologically disadvantaged Big 12 has as many undefeated teams as the SEC (two). Oklahoma also seems to have righted itself.
A Big 12 playoff run isn't dead. Neither is expansion. How can it be?
This league has always been and remains ... totally unpredictable.
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