Last week, the Big 12 Conference and its board of directors decided to go forward with their quest to expand. From there, it seemed like it was a beauty contest between the few hopefuls that could get that invite to the proverbial “Big 12 Prom.”
The Big 12 brass is looking for the perfect dates and they have a specific criteria for what they want: their athletic department, fan base size, media markets, academic strength and reputation.
In my opinion, the four teams that should get an invite to Big 12 are BYU, Houston, Cincinnati and Tulane.
All four make sense in terms of TV market size, strength of their athletic departments and reputation.
Houston, BYU, Tulane and Cincinnati rank among the top 60 media markets according to the latest Neilsen TV market rankings. Houston leads that group, ranking 10th with a 2.095 share of the national market. With their recent success under head coach Tom Herman, the Houston Cougars will certainly get more national coverage including a season opening matchup against Oklahoma at NRG Stadium to start the 2016 college football season.
When it comes to fan bases, there’s no other fan base that has the national footprint quite like BYU. The Cougars are based in Salt Lake City, but have a national (even worldwide) reach due to their connection with the Mormon church. Cougars fans are some of the most loyal. Every year they hold contests in all 50 states, similar to a scavenger hunt, via social media. Fans participating have to locate BYU prize packs and it’s become a summer tradition for BYU fans.
One thing that BYU struggles with is playing games on Sundays due to Mormon doctrine, but that shouldn’t be an issue as the Big 12 could move up games and work around that schedule to help out the Cougars and their fans.
When West Virginia joined the Big 12, they were considered the school on an island due to the fact they were the only east coast school in a Midwest-based conference. The addition of Cincinnati gives you a bridge to West Virginia, which is only 308 miles away and carries with them the strong, loyal fan base of northern Kentucky and southern Ohio. No longer can West Virginia be looked at as an outpost with Cincinnati as their link with the conference.
Tulane also puts the conference in Louisiana and only 350 miles away from Houston. Another advantage to the addition of Tulane is that it gives the conference a destination for various tournaments and possibly a championship game for football.
Think about it. K-State vs. Oklahoma. Big 12 Championship Game. Mercedes-Benz SuperDome. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Aside from being just a fun destination and party city, Tulane ranks 41st in the latest US News College rankings and reviews. They also rank high when it comes to schools attended by veterans, colleges of social work, public health and hospital management. Not only that, but they are one of the top 50 law schools in the U.S.
Tulane also has new athletic facilities which helps in the ever-going arms race in college sports, so while they may not have the tradition of UConn or Air Force, they provide the regional footprint, academic and athletic standing that the Big 12 could surely use.
The Big 12 has missed out on the schools like Louisville, Florida State and Clemson but they can get a chance to grab Tulane, BYU, Houston and Cincinnati and make up for the many missteps they’ve suffered over the past few years.
The Big 12 has the potential to be great again, but only if they can realize it.