The athletic directors of the schools that make up the Big 12 Conference met in Irving, TX over the past two days to discuss the future of the conference in terms of composition and bowl preferences.
Big 12 fans have been rather nervous with recent changes in the NCAA Football conference landscape, mostly because the Big 12 hasn’t been making any moves. The ACC, SEC and Big Ten will all have at least 14 teams come the beginning of the 2014 season and the Pac-12, which is currently the only conference whose name makes numerical sense, will have 12. The Big 12 is currently the little man amongst the BCS automatic qualifier conferences with just 10 members. The Big East also still exists…kind of.
So did these meetings bear the fruit of conference expansion that Big 12 fans are hungry for? No, but at least conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby seems to be hinting at snatching up an extra team or four.
Bowlsby gave the typical conference realignment double-talk by saying that the Big 12 feels, “very good about where we are”, but not failing to mention that, “we’d be unwise to be oblivious to all that is going on around us. We need to be constantly vigilant.” That is about as close as us Big 12 supporters are going to get to having Bowlsby guarantee that the Big 12 will expand prior to 2014, though he did mention that staying at 10 members or allying with other conferences without adding teams were possibilities.
Though it might seem like the most pressing matter, conference composition was not the number one item on the agenda for the meetings. Rather, the primary focus of the ADs was to discuss the future of Big 12 bowl tie-ins.
The conference has to do so because the Cotton Bowl, which currently has the first pick of non BCS bound Big 12 teams come bowl season, is set to become part of the rotation of semifinal game sites once the new playoff system comes into effect in 2014. Bowlsby stated that once the host bowls are finalized over the next few months, the Big 12 will want to reach out to different bowls in order to secure spots for its members in prestigious games. He went on to say that both the Alamo Bowl and the Meineke Bowl (it is the friggin’ Texas Bowl people, COME ON!) have, “expressed a desire to move up and-or maintain a high level of association” with the Big 12.
Other potential sites for future Big 12 bowl engagements include games played in Florida. Siting the fact that the majority of the nation’s recruits come out of Texas, Florida and California, Bowlsby expressed that the Big 12 desires to have a strong presence in all three states during bowl season. They already have Cali ties due to their involvement with the Holiday Bowl.
It is good to see the athletic directors come together and plan for the future like this, but part of me wonders if they might not be a little too late. The bowl deals obviously are not going to get done yet due to not knowing for sure what sites will be used for the semifinals, but the realignment train may have already left the Big 12 high and dry at the station.
When the Louisville Cardinals were ripe for the plucking the Big 12 sat on its hands and let a team that would have fit beautifully into the conference escape to the ACC. There are still some teams out there that I feel fit the Big 12 profile. I’ve mentioned the BYU Cougars before, but I think teams like the Cincinnati Bearcats and Boise State Broncos would also fit the mold. The teams are there, the Big 12 just has to jump on them, and they only have one year to make it happen before the playoffs come knocking.
For now, at least the Big 12 seems to be thinking progressively, and that is a good start.