Big 12 expansion talk is so widespread, it has invaded North Carolina politics

Big 12 expansion has, and will continue to, bubble beneath the college football news cycle until the league has officially introduced its plans for the future. The exploration and invitation process could take anywhere from several weeks to a few months, but it's hard to imagine the process getting any crazier than it is here in late July.

With media days mostly wrapped up and preseason camp just days away, the hysteria surrounding the Big 12's expected expansion has reached a fever pitch. Some schools, like BYU, reacted quickly with declarations of confidence in what its program could bring to the Big 12. Houston has Texas state officials and University of Texas officials lobbying on its behalf in well-timed Twitter statements. Other schools, like East Carolina, have taken a more aggressive approach.

ECU's public pursuit of a Big 12 bid has even reached into North Carolina politics, specifically the 2016 gubernatorial election. On Wednesday morning, attorney general Roy Cooper crafted a letter to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby endorsing the Pirates as a viable candidate for their league.

"Academically, ECU is an institution of higher education with nationally recognized undergraduate, graduate and medical programs. It is a critical component of the crown jewel of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina higher education system," Cooper wrote. "In addition, ECU athletics is a source of pride for fans across North Carolina. I am confident ECU would make for an excellent member institution for the Big 12."

An important note here: Cooper is not only the state's attorney general but also the Democratic candidate for governor, running against current seat holder Pat McCrory in November.

According to the governor's office, McCrory's letter was drafted on Tuesday before its Wednesday release. So now the state's governor is making his support of the ECU-to-Big 12 campaign is known as well, joining the chorus of local and state officials singing the Pirates' praises to Bob Bowlsby and the Big 12 presidents.

"In addition to the 16,828 members of the Pirate Club and the more than 45,000 Pirate fans that attend home football games in Greenville, East Carolina University would provide the Big 12 a substantial presence throughout the ninth largest state in the country and leverage the combined television markets of Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Charlotte," McCrory wrote.

ECU's odds to receive a Big 12 invite may be long, but the aggressive politicking has now landed the Pirates in the middle of a hotly-contested governor's race. McCrory and Cooper may not be able to agree on the litigation of HB2, but they are riding together for ECU.

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories