The Big XII Conference: To expand or not to expand?

By Marian Hinton

For the last several weeks, there have been so many rumors surrounding the possibility of the Big XII potentially adding teams that it is difficult to determine what is fact and what is fiction.

Though the conference appeared on the verge of an early death this time last year with the departures and imminent departures of the Colorado Buffaloes, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Texas A&M Aggies, and the Missouri Tigers, the addition of the TCU Horned Frogs and the West Virginia Mountaineers breathed a much needed breath into the weakened conference.

With the Big XII’s recent announcement of a post-season bowl match-up vs. the SEC, with mid-conference teams such as the Baylor Bears and Oklahoma State Cowboys having strong seasons, and with this year’s Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III hailing from the Big XII, the conference has fought its way back to the top, restoring its place as one of the top two football conferences in the land.

Now, with strong programs such as the Florida State Seminoles, the Clemson Tigers, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the Virginia Tech Hokies rumored to be showing interest in the Big XII, instead of teams bolting for greener pastures, teams are trying to get in.

But will the Big XII remain at 10 teams, or will they continue to expand?

With the Big XII spring meetings taking place this week, that is the question.

The conference’s interim commissioner, Chuck Neinas (who should get most of the credit for the resurrection of the conference) claims that the Big XII is content to stand at ten for the time being.

“There is comfort with 10,” he explains. “The membership is much more comfortable having a conference without divisions. They’ve experienced divisions. Just three weeks ago our athletic directors discussed it thoroughly and everyone said they were just comfortable with 10.”

Remaining at 10 teams would allow each school to play each other at least once per year, doing away with the need for two separate divisions, formerly the Big 12 North and the Big 12 South.

He further argues that this will solidify the conference and keep regional rivalries (with the exception of West Virginia) in tact. As Neinas stated, the programs of the Big 12, which was created from the remnants of the Southwest Conference and the Big 8, never seemed to be on the same page since its inception in 1996. Now, they have been reborn with a common purpose and common goals.

So, does Neinas truly believe that the Big XII would be best served to shelf the talks of expansion, or is it simply “coach speak?”

We cannot answer that question right now, but there is certainly some truth in what he says, and he makes some valid arguments.

On the other hand, with the college football landscape shifting so drastically and so rapidly of late, perhaps it is best for the Big XII to jump out ahead of the game and add strong programs, who seem to be interested, before they are beaten to the punch. It’s always better to be a leader than a follower, and the conference has the chance to lead the way in terms of conference realignment.

Whatever they decide, the crucial thing for them to remember is not to expand purely for the sake of expanding. With many strong programs looking into making a move, the Big XII seems to have the right to be more exclusive this time around.

It’s amazing how far the conference has come, thanks in large part to Neinas. One year ago, even the conference’s premier teams, the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners, were looking elsewhere. Now, the Big XII seems to hold all of the cards in the realignment of college football.







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