Potential Big 12 expansion has been a hot topic lately, and we examine expansion possibilities in our weekly Big 12 roundtable:
In the event of expansion, what non-Power 5 conference program would you target first?
Jake Trotter: I'm not a huge fan of any of the available options at the moment. But my first call would be to BYU. I know many Big 12 leaders wouldn't feel the same. BYU rubbed the Big 12 the wrong way when the two sides discussed possible inclusion a few years ago. That said, BYU brings the most to the table, both in terms of football tradition and fanbase. Adding BYU would also expand the conference's footprint into another state. Sure, BYU would be a proximity nightmare. And the Cougars have proven to be high maintenance. But they have a quality program (just ask Texas and Oklahoma, both of whom BYU has vanquished in recent years). And on a list of not-so-great options, BYU stands out.
Brandon Chatmon: Much like Jake, I'm not a big fan of any of the current available options. BYU would definitely be my first call as well. The Cougars check a lot of the boxes as a national brand that expands the Big 12's footprint and brings something new to the table. Granted the roughly 1,700-mile flight from Provo, Utah, to Morgantown, West Virginia, is not ideal and some of the Cougars' quirks will have to be paid special attention. It's not a perfect situation but BYU is the best fit of the available teams if it becomes time.
Max Olson: The problem for me is, I have a hard time getting excited about many (any?) of the Big 12's potential expansion options out of the AAC. Let's see where those programs are three to five years down the road before we decide they're even decent fits for this conference. If you can't sneak a prestige get like Florida State or Clemson out of a Power 5 conference, I agree BYU makes sense for a few reasons. While I'm not sure it's a great move, it's probably the easiest one the Big 12 could make if we go down this road.
Who would you target second?
Trotter: For me, this would come down to Central Florida and Cincinnati, and I would give the edge to UCF because of the upside in recruiting. With the SEC encroaching more and more into Texas, the Big 12 collectively needs to open up another pipeline elsewhere. Adding UCF would give the Big 12 better inroads into one of the top recruiting hotbeds in the country. UCF has also played quality football in recent years and has more upside as a program given its massive student body. I realize adding BYU and UCF would pretty much make zero sense, given their locations. So ultimately, if the Big 12 expanded in the near future, it likely would have to decide on one of three packages: UCF and Cincinnati? BYU and either Colorado State or Boise State? Or, Houston and Memphis. Given that West Virginia is on the East Coast, the first option might be the most palatable.
Chatmon: For option No. 2 it's time to look East. Just like Jake, Central Florida peaks my interest for a variety of reasons. Getting into Florida would be a good idea for the entire conference and UCF has potential to grow in a lot of different areas, especially as a Power 5 school. The Orlando area school would provide another East Coast school to join West Virginia. The addition of both schools would take the Big 12 brand into different, brand new areas of the country which is a great place to start when the next round of expansion hits.
Olson: This is kind of a crazy idea, but hear me out. If the Big 12 ever ends up adding BYU, why not also make a move for Boise State? The Broncos have won three Fiesta Bowls in the past eight years and remain the best mid-major brand on the market. From a TV and geography standpoint, I understand why Boise isn't appealing to the Big 12's power brokers. But if you're going to dilute the quality of the conference with more additions, Boise State is one of the very few Group of 5 programs that would actually make the Big 12 more competitive.