Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Can the Big 12 be saved?

Nebraska is rumored to be ready to bolt to the Big 10. Colorado is rumored to be ready to bolt to the Pac-10. (Hmmm. Big-12 with 10 schools and Big-10 with 12 schools. Perhaps they can engineer a name swap.) The remainder of the Big-12 south (minus Baylor) has a rumored invite to the Pac-10.

Can the Big-12 save itself?

One option would be to just continue the conference with 10 teams. This would create some issues with staging a Big-12 championship game in Dallas in 2013, though that could probably be worked out. The conference would lose one national power in Nebraska and one potentially large media market in Denver. However, most of the strength would be intact. They may lose the ability to fill one of the lower tier bowls. However, they would likely be able to continue placing two teams in the BCS bowls. The loss of revenue from the championship game would hurt. However, the breakup fees and the fewer teams could leave each team about even financially for the short term.

They could also go aggressive. Invite BYU and Air Force. Both fit nicely in north division and have strong local followings as well as national followings. (If Colorado goes to the Pac-10 without the Big-12 south, it will likely go with Utah.) But why stop there when they can go to the first mega conference. TCU and Houston or New Mexico could be added to the south division. Boise State and Colorado State (or Wyoming) be picks for the north division. (Boise would give the most immediate credibility in football, though it is more of a geographic outlier.)

The new Big-16 could probably argue that the north division deserves the automatic bid that the Mountain West was on the cusp of receiving. Thus, the 2 BCS bids would be locked up. The conference would add to its stranglehold on the Texas market. Utah would be a significant market addition. Colorado would remain fairly strong. Idaho, Wyoming or New Mexico would add somewhat smaller markets.

On the football field, the north would probably remain the weaker part of the conference. However, it will likely be highly competitive, with plenty quality programs.

A Big-12 expansion would leave the mountain west out of existence. San Diego State, UNLV and any other remainders could join the WAC. This is probably nearer to their current level of competition as well as being closer to geographic rivals.

Could the Big 12 pull it off and survive? It seems unlikely now, but we will see how it all fleshes out.

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