Dallas — Before the Big 12 decides its expansion targets, the shrinking league must decide how many.
Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said “there’s not even a plurality” among members about what the Big 12 should do. The board of directors will likely discuss the subject Sunday or Monday. Much may depend on whether Missouri stays or joins Texas A&M in the SEC.
Neinas said proposals range from an economical nine-team league to a 16-team superconference. “There’s a lot of interesting ideas,” a Big 12 school source said.
Based on interviews with multiple sources familiar with the process, here are the leading options. TCU makes the cut in most scenarios. BYU is involved. And the Big East factors into the mega-expansion possibilities.
Nine teams: Missouri’s board of curators could look at the Big 12’s exit fees, blink and opt for a face-saving concession.
Even if Missouri leaves, the Big 12 could opt to add just one with the choice between TCU and BYU. The TV money split nine ways would be lucrative, but would still present the image of a teetering conference.
The proposed granting of Tier 1 and Tier 2 TV rights to the conference by member schools for six years would offer stability. As Oklahoma president David Boren put it, schools would essentially be handcuffed in place because their best TV games would be committed to the league. But after those six years?
Ten teams: If Missouri stays, the Big 12 might add one more school to return to 10. The league planned to go with 10 after Colorado and Nebraska left. Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds called 10 a “magic number” because it allows round-robin play.
Again, TCU and BYU would be leading candidates for the one spot. Each could compete in football as early as next season. BYU is in its first year as a football independent. TCU, scheduled to leave the Mountain West for the Big East, would reportedly have to only pay a $5 million exit fee. The Big East’s 27-month wait would not apply, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
Should the Big 12 need two teams to reach 10, TCU and BYU would each be in play. So would current Big East schools, led by Louisville and West Virginia.
Twelve teams: The Big 12 could go back to its roots as a 12-team, two-division conference regardless of Missouri’s choice. A lucrative football title game could return.
Geography would be crucial. Several Big 12 schools believe that the conference must choose between expanding east or west. Trying to do both would be problematic.
So the focus would probably be the Big East, both future (TCU) and current members (Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia). If Missouri leaves, all four could be a package that would likely end the Big East as a football league.
Sixteen teams: While it has been discussed, it’s not a likelihood. The TV money would have to support the venture. Still, if dominoes start falling ...
The math is simple, if Missouri exits. The remaining eight Big 12 teams would take the seven schools left in the Big East and be one short of a superconference. The 16th school could be Central Florida as a travel partner for USF. Or the door could be opened for another Texas team like SMU.