There are a couple of things that you have to know about this.
1 -- There is a meeting today in New York City of Big 12 athletic directors. That meeting was planned long before the calamitous events of Sunday when the Big 12 had both of their one true co champions spurned by the playoff selection committee in favor of Ohio State. That event is forcing the Big 12 to take a long hard look at itself. This isn't the speculation of some used car salesmen in West Virginia either. It's being reported by seemingly everyone at this point, that is good news as far as UC is concerned.
2 -- Bring On The Cats, an SB Nation site devoted Kansas State lays out the details for just how much not expanding is costing the Big 12. This is the money quote.
So when we're told that Big 12 schools can expect $22 million a year in revenue and that any new members need to be worth something close to that in order to justify adding them... that's nonsense., because not having them is actually costing the league nearly an entire team's worth of revenue -- and that's not even counting the revenues to be gained from holding a conference championship game in the first place or the long-term and very real financial cost of being left out in the cold and eroded goodwill. These things add up, and the core mistake the Big 12 schools -- some of them, anyway -- have been making is to fail to look past the ends of their noses.
For Cincinnati fans the question is will this be the tipping point for the Big 12 towards expansion, or will they simply tinker with their tie breakers and scheduling, both in conference and out, so they can run it back in 2015 hoping for a different outcome. The fluky nature of this season lends credence to the second notion, where the Big 12 stands pat and runs it back in 2015 trying to get a school in the final four. But the odds are not in their favor to do so. The Big 12 produced two teams that stood 11-1 when the regular season ended, two of just nine teams nation wide to win more than 11 games this season. As a matter of course the Big 12 would not produce two 11 win teams in an average year, and two was not enough this year to get one of them into the playoff.
As for the Bearcats my stance towards this is simple, UC is far and away the best available option for the Big 12, or anyone else, looking to expand. I think that the age of movement within power conferences is over. With grant of Rights contracts being signed by nearly every conference in the past five years the schools in power conferences are legally bound to their conferences now more than ever. No one knows if a GOR would stand up under legal scrutiny, but no one is in a rush to test that either.
So with the power conferences effectively out of bounds anyone looking to expand has to be looking at a lower level conference. Among that cohort no one has Cincinnati's combination of enrollment size, academic rankings, endowment, research profile, media market, consistent success in football and basketball. With the expansion of Nippert Stadium being a year away from completion and a renovation for Fifth Third Arena on deck the facilities are no longer the red flag they were five years ago. The University of Cincinnati has a lot of things in their favor and will more than likely be at the front of the line should the Big 12 make the pro active decision to move on expansion.
The question is, will a conference that is known as much for being reactive in a board room finally flip the switch and choose to look forward and position themselves for the future? That is the million dollar question, and it's one I don't have a good answer for.