Report: Big 12 to Add UCF, Cincinnati, Houston and BYU to Conference this Friday

Via Yahoo’s Pete Thamel:

So the Big 12 is desperately trying to stay alive, I guess. I understand it from the perspective of all the people that work for the Big 12 conference, like Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, etc. They all want to keep their jobs, and if the conference folds, they’ll be out of work.

And I understand the move from the perspective of UCF, Cincy, Houston and BYU: it’s an upgrade for them in terms of conference. UCF, Cincy and Houston move up from the AAC to a conference that is, at least for now, technically Power Five. It’s a no-brainer for them.

And for BYU, it gets them in a conference. The logical fit for BYU is obviously the Pac-12, but I think the Pac-12 doesn’t accept religious institutions so they’ve never been able to join the Pac-12 and probably never will be able to. BYU last season saw how detrimental it was to not have a conference: when Covid hit, it upended all the schedules in the nation, and all the Power Five conferences switched over to a conference-only schedule, which left BYU scrambling to scrape together a schedule of their own. They didn’t play any Power Five opponents last year because they simply couldn’t.

Logistically, it’s a pretty strange conference. It stretches all the way from Orlando, Florida to Salt Lake City, Utah. And don’t forget Morgantown, West Virginia. Geographic fit is now officially irrelevant when it comes to college football conferences.

The four new schools really don’t much of a fit with the existing Big 12 schools–no real history, rivalries, or even cultural fits other than Houston, which joins the other three Texas schools in the Big 12.

But whatever. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

However, I can’t help but think this is all a day late, a dollar short. Even with these four new schools, the Big 12 still isn’t a true “power” conference. Adding these four schools does not come anywhere close to filling the power vacuum left by the departures of Texas and Oklahoma. You can’t replace a Texas or and Oklahoma.

All this does is bring the Big 12 up to 12 teams, but they should not be treated as a “Power Five” conference anymore. If, for example, when college football finally switches over to an 8 or 12-team playoff and the big conferences get automatic bids, the other four are not going to allow the Big 12 to be part of the automatic bid club. No way–not when the level competition in the Big 12 is so obviously inferior to the other four conferences that comprise the Power Five.

This is what the new Big 12 will look like:

  • Iowa State
  • Oklahoma State
  • Kansas
  • Kansas State
  • TCU
  • Texas Tech
  • West Virginia
  • Baylor
  • UCF
  • Houston
  • Cincinnati
  • BYU

There is not one premier, blue-blood program in that conference. Sure, Iowa State and Cincy are both in the top 10 this season, but does anybody really believe they’re top-10 programs in general? Of course not.

Sure, it’s a stronger conference than the AAC, or any Group of Five conference for that matter, but it’s simply not on the same level as the SEC, Big Ten, ACC or Pac-12. It doesn’t belong with them.

So effectively, now College Football has a Power Four, and then a Group of Six. You might say, “Great! No need to expand the playoffs, then: just give automatic berths to the Power Four conference winners and keep the playoff at four teams!”

Well, that’s not going to happen. For one thing, Notre Dame can’t get in. And then none of the Group of Six teams will be able to make it either.

Plus, the SEC is the conference that’s pushing for a 12-team playoff because as the strongest conference, the SEC knows that the more playoff spots there are the more teams they’ll get into the playoff. The SEC is against a four-team playoff that features automatic bids for the champions of the four major conferences, because that means every year, a team like Georgia or LSU or Florida will miss out on a playoff spot to a team like, say, Utah or Oregon or USC or something like that. Can you imagine the outrage if Georgia loses to Bama in the SEC Championship game, still finishes 12-1, but misses out on the playoff because a 3-loss Utah team wins the Pac-12? Hell no. The SEC would never stand for that.

No, the playoff still has to expand. There have to be at-large bids. Period, end of story. Notre Dame is obviously demanding them, but more importantly, the SEC is as well. And the SEC is the Big Swinging Dick of college football, so whatever they want, they get.

And that’s the bottom line: like the recently-announced Big Ten-ACC-Pac-12 “alliance,” this ultimately does nothing to shift the balance of power in college football. The SEC is still the top dog. The Big 12’s move to add these four schools may keep it alive as an entity, but it certainly doesn’t come anywhere close to replacing Oklahoma and Texas in terms of revenues, prestige and level of competition.

Austin Frank

Sports blogger

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