With a lot of talk about the Big 12 possibly expanding, I chose to take a deeper look into just how probable this might be. The Big 12 is mostly concealed within the Midwest with teams in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and West Virginia with WV being the most eastern team. If the conference were to expand, Cincinnati would fall within its wide borders.
Ohio is certainly fertile recruiting ground and provides Cincinnati a leg up among other candidates. After missing the newly formed College Football Playoff in 2014, it seems as if adding another team or two could only help the conference gain national relevance again. UC President Ono has been leading a very diligent effort to join the Big 12 and the school as a whole would benefit immensely from television deals all the way to the possible expansion of Nippert Stadium.
Looking around at who has been behind the cause, it has been a team effort from powerful executives which have business in the city of Cincinnati. Kroger and Macy's executives have been in the ear of the conference members, according to emails. In a email on Oct. 7, 2014, Kroger CEO David Dillon told Ono that he had discussions with Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz, the University of Kansas chancellor and a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the state's two Big 12 schools. Schulz "was complimentary of the upward trajectory of UC."
Former Kansas State President Jon Wefald sent emails in 2014 stating that the only way Cincinnati could join the conference is if it was willing to take a little pay cut in terms of the way the Big 12 divides finances among its members. This issue is brought forth mostly by television deals and the fear that adding teams to the conference will only take away from its current members. I don't see this being any issue with President Ono. Even though certain projections from public records show the move could generate an extra 20 million per year for the institution.
You can read more into the emails here.
The Big 12 has only 10 teams at the moment. Although a recent rule change has allowed them to field a conference championship, the board members are undecided. With that being said, there is no immediate need to have a 12 member conference. Commissioner of the Big 12 Robert Bowlsby has mostly denied any possible desire to expand and is most recently quoted saying:
"We don't have any imperative for getting larger," he said. "We haven't really spent any time thinking about who the candidates are, if there are any candidates. But there has been media speculation about it. It doesn't take any genius to look around and see where there may be prospects."
Even with Bowlsby's denial of any sort of expansion, The Oklahoman released an article yesterday stating that Cincinnati ought to be optimistic about an invitation to the Big 12, not because of emails between President Ono and Oklahoma President Boren, but because the presidents of each school have all agreed that expansion is needed and Cincinnati is the frontrunner in that regard. This suggests that a decision is coming, maybe even this summer. It has been the consensus around the league that the conference needs to look at the numbers and let the data decide. Boren has been quoted asking those very questions:
"Well, what are their academics? What's their research base? How well do they fit our academic profile? How well do they fit our fan base profile? How many dollars in their market do they bring to the table? We're looking at all that. In terms of the network and those dollars, we're looking with our TV consultants to tell us."
With all of the recent talk about this possible expansion you would guess that a decision isn't far. When you look at the benefits from the Big 12 adding a stable program like UC's and the benefits UC could gain, it looks like a perfect match. Only time will tell when it comes to this opportunity, but my goodness it could be a good one, for both parties.