Few things change as often as whether the Big 12 will expand or not. Early it looked like the league would never expand. Then it sounded like the league might, only to hear it wouldn’t again. Then at meetings this summer, the league decided it would listen to pitches from a number of schools.
And listen they did. 22 schools presented their argument, and then we were down to 12. But something about the list of 12 made it clear the league had an unusual list. While the Rice Owls are a fantastic academic school, they have 7,000 students and are not a sports powerhouse. But they made the cut. SMU is not far from TCU, and would present all the problems with recruiting Houston would. But they made the cut. Yet, Memphis and their claims of Fed Ex money and improving football, new market, and consistently good basketball were eliminated.
The Big 12 seemed to be advancing stronger academic institutions along in the process. It’s unclear why that was done if the schools could not actually get into the league.
As the process may finally near its end, the important question to ask is this: how can any school get eight votes? Expansion requires eight of the ten Big 12 members to vote for adding that school. A number of schools seem to have a serious obstacle to gaining 8 votes.
Houston has emerged as a popular pick. I’ve opposed their inclusion because they’d be a huge problem for Baylor in terms of football recruiting and would be another competitor in a new round of realignment if the Big 12 collapses. My focus here is on what will happen though, not what I’d like to see happen.
A few things have strengthened my view that the league will not add Houston. Fist, Mack Rhoades has given interviews with ESPN 1660 where he suggests the league may not expand. This was done before anyone else voice doubts about expansion. That made me more confident Baylor will have no qualms about being in the minority in a Big 12 vote. Second, Oklahoma State mega-donor T. Boone Pickens may like Houston, but Mike Gundy does not. Berry Tramel, a columnist for the Oklahoman, also believes Oklahoma State is strongly opposed to Houston’s entrance.
Yesterday, David Boren, the President at Oklahoma, added the league may not expand. Jake Trotter of ESPN had this:
"We do have a relationship to maintain, not only short term, but long term with the networks," Boren said. "When you have a partnership and you have a friendship, it isn't just for today, it's long term. And I think you have to think about long-term implications in any action we take. If we were to expand by two teams, four teams, that has financial implications for the networks. I think we have to see if that adds to the long-term stability or not."
Boren probably would not be speaking like this unless there were some movement. If Baylor and Oklahoma State are voting no, then Houston needs the votes of every other Big 12 member. Oklahoma just lost to Houston and relies on a lot of Texas for recruiting. They might vote no. Though they might also think they can dominate even with Houston’s inclusion.
Originally I thought Baylor, Oklahoma State, and TCU were the natural path to block Houston, and they still probably are. TCU would face all the problems Baylor does with the addition of Houston.
The Big 12 schools outside of Texas might have concerns about Houston as well. Schools might fear the conference has too many Texas teams. They might also fear that Texas is a necessary recruiting ground and become terrified of unleashing Houston into the Big 12.
This is probably where somebody would say, “I’m not scared of Houston. I don’t live my life in fear. You’re just scared.” Yes. I am scared. Life is often about making decisions because of fear. The idea that fear can never be a justification for a decision is absolutely crazy. If Houston’s entrance into the Big 12 would harm Baylor- and I believe it would- then I’m not going to support their addition. And that’s how other member institutions will think: would Houston help or hurt my school? That’s a rational decision based on fear. That’s better than an irrational decision to avoid being called scared.
B.Y.U. will have a serious problem because of their honor code. My guess is that the Big 12 will decide it is not worth the controversy of adding them while they have their honor code. Whether you agree or disagree with the honor code is not my point. I think enough people have a problem with the honor code that the Big 12 will not want to add them. The ACC and the NCAA have just pulled events out of North Carolina because they view HB2 as discriminatory . While there are certainly distinctions between that law and the honor code, this is going to be a big deal. Maybe BYU can get eight votes, but I think they fall short.
Even if Cincinnati has the requisite votes, they are only getting in if the Big 12 goes to 12. No other school has shown they can generate eight votes. If Houston and B.Y.U. fail to gain admission, then some Big 12 schools might be able to get some support for Connecticut or U.C.F., but Connecticut has big problems with football, and U.C.F. is a weird geographic move. Those schools have also not been the main candidates like B.Y.U. and Houston. If those fall short, there’s not much evidence the Big 12 would immediately have the votes for those schools.
Getting eight out of ten people to agree to something is hard. Getting eight out of ten schools in a conference that often feels like its future may end when the grant of rights expires in 2025 is harder. B.Y.U. and Houston, like some other schools in the expansion sweepstakes, certainly have strong cases for expansion, and they still may be lucky enough to join the Big 12. But the momentum appears to be stalling and the votes do not appear to be there. While I could be wrong, I do not believe the Big 12 will expand.