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Realignment Reports: Big 12 Expansion to Add BYU, UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati Imminent (Updated 9/4)

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I should probably learn how to spell “Cincinnati” for future headlines or just go with “Cincy” from here on.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Cincinnati v Georgia Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

The rumors that began to swirl recently about possible Big 12 expansion have continued to accelerate today, coinciding with the apparent timetable under which the Conference is operating. After Max Olson—formerly of ESPN back when they cared about Big 12 football and actually employed people to cover it, specifically, and now of The Athletic—broke the news yesterday that the Conference had zeroed in on four schoolsBYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston—for future expansion in the wake of OU and UT heading for greener ($$) pastures, the general thought seemed to be that we might be weeks or months away from any real movement. Most that I saw talked about this as an winter/spring sort of thing, not something happening now. But as is common in these situations—think OU and UT to the SEC to begin with—it appears that the news broke much sooner to the actual events than anticipated.

First, Colt Barber of SE365 posted ($$) this morning about how things were “moving quickly” on the expansion front. He was the first I saw to say this could be a faster process than anticipated. Then came Mark Berman, a Houston-based sports reporter with the following about an actual call that may happen Monday:

A slight note: no disrespect intended, but I tend to take national reporters more seriously than local, regional, or school-specific reporters on this kind of stuff, simply because I feel like the potential pool of sources is more broad and less homogenous. That is particularly true when the reporter is local to a school that would probably really like it to be known they are included in potential expansion like this (i.e., Houston). That being said, I take (trustworthy) people at their word when they report things.

A few minutes later Brett McMurphy, also formerly of ESPN in better days for CFB as a whole, tweeted the following:

This is noteworthy for two reasons. First and most obviously, it more or less confirms Berman’s timetable, which McMurphy implied could see invites going out very soon (invites that you would assume would be accepted, since no offers are ever made in CFB coaching searches or realignment unless you already know the answer). Second is the list of teams that were considered but didn’t make it, which includes Twitter darling Memphis, Boise State, which isn’t really a state, SMU, and USF.

Regarding the timetable issue and apparent certainty of what is happening, Stewart Mandel, also of The Athletic, tweeted shortly thereafter:

After that Matt Musil, another Houston-based sportscaster (but from a different network than Berman, if that matters) seemingly echoed Berman’s report and upped ante by saying we might see movement (in terms of invites) within approximately the next week:

Finally, just a few minutes ago Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated seemingly confirmed all of this and added even more:

So here we are, with four schools that the Big 12 apparently wants to add and that are willing to come, a timetable that has them playing Big 12 football games in 2023, and a path forward for the IR8TE, at least for now (as always). And we could see all of this come together in the next week or so. I initially thought the Conference might use BYU’s trip to Waco in October as a DTR/”meet the parents” sort of weekend, but it looks like things may be moving even faster than that. Instead, it could be more of a rehearsal dinner for something that is already happening/has happened.

I, for one, am excited. If you follow the ODB account on Twitter you already know this, but BYU, UCF, and Cincinnati seemed, to me, like no-brainers from the start if you were going to twelve, with the fourth spot less certain. You could make a decent argument for probably 6-8 schools, including everyone from Boise State (again, not a state) to USF, and if you told me it had to be Houston, I’m ok with that. I don’t love it for largely the same reasons KK posted yesterday, but I can’t make a clear-cut argument for anyone being definitely better than Houston, and I suppose that’s the point. Houston fans seem happy, so I’m happy for them.

Regarding the Conference itself, I am also on record at several points saying this will be, without a doubt, the best basketball conference in the land and an underrated football conference, as well. It will lack “big-name” schools at the top, but, as Matt Brown and others have shown the last few days on Twitter, you can make an argument that it is on par or better than the Pac12 in recent years in football, in addition to being clearly better in basketball (because it is better than everyone). So whenever you hear/see people saying there are only 4 “power” conferences now, know that they aren’t actually talking about quality on the field or court; they are talking about the names on the jerseys and the money in the bank (and to be made).

Stay tuned, everyone!

UPDATE: ITSHAPPENING.GIF