Back in simpler days when college football conferences were aligned geographically, things made a lot more sense. Teams in the old Southwest Conference were in the Southwest, teams in the SEC were in the Southeast, teams from the Big 10 were in the Midwest and PAC-12 teams hugged the California coastline.
Now in the era that anything goes, Temple — a school about as far East as possible — could wind up among what is essentially the old Southwest Conference teams in the 10-team Big 12. Time is of the essence since any expansion will probably go down at the NCAA convention this weekend (Jan. 14-16). The Big 12 appealed the 12-team limit, but that will probably be denied, and knowing that, the conference might be quick to add two new teams. Having a conference championship game represents earnings of roughly $2 million per year per school in addition to offering a marquee matchup to help the conference bid for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The conference needs two more teams for a playoff, and the scuttlebutt is that the conference could reach out to Temple for one of the spots. If the Owls are asked to jump, the only question they should ask is how high, because the revenue stream coming into the school is estimated to be in the area of $23.4 million per year now as opposed to the $3.3 million they are making now as a member of the AAC. Had the Owls been in the Big 12 last year, for example, their 23-10 basketball team would not have been snubbed on NCAA Selection Sunday. Also, a 6-6 Temple football team in the Big 12 would get a far more attractive bowl than the 10-win Owls got this past season.
The Big 12 is in a tight spot because the recent departures of Missouri and Texas A&M leave the conference two short of the minimum required for a championship game. Oklahoma, this year’s football champion, had to sweat out a spot in the championship semifinals because its league did not have a title game. The league wants to avoid such a scenario in the future.
That’s where Temple comes in because the league wants to add a TV network, like the Big 10 and the SEC has now. Temple is the only FBS school in the largest TV market (Philadelphia) not already taken by a Power 5 school, the fourth-biggest. The Big 12 had to be taking notes when the Owls drew the largest TV rating ever for a network night game in Philadelphia on Halloween night against visiting Notre Dame. Since Notre Dame has been on the network 56 times before that night, the variable that drove the ratings off the charts was Temple. Any addition of Temple would bring TV eyeballs that would make the addition a win-win. The other best fit is Cincinnati, which would be West Virginia’s preferred travel partner, and also fit the large city profile the league is looking to add.
In an era where nothing makes sense geographically in college sports, money talks and just about every school should be willing to walk.