As Big 12 expansion once again dominates the news cycle, there are a lot of questions being raised. Who will the Big 12 choose? What are the ramifications of expansion? Did the ACC’s new TV deal force the Big 12’s hand?
While we look forward to getting the answers to those queries soon, I think it is high time we start thinking about things from an even more Cincinnati-focused perspective than usual. We can argue about who the best expansion candidates are from the league’s outlook until the Longhorns come home, but what are the best teams from UC’s point of view?
Oklahoma president and Big 12 board chair David Boren’s comments earlier this week indicated that at least two teams and as many as four would be added. Let’s pretend we know UC will be one of them. Which program or programs would UC want to join the Big 12 with?
The top candidates for expansion, although certainly not the only ones, are BYU, UConn, UCF, USF, Houston, Colorado State and Memphis. Who should be UC’s travel buddy?
There is a somewhat twisted camaraderie between UC and UConn, as both teams have gone through this whole realignment business before. The same could be said for USF, as all three schools were part of the Big East contingency that helped form the American Athletic Conference. However, losing out on the heart-stopping basketball bouts between the Bearcats and the Huskies would be a tough pill to swallow, even if it would save us all a possible heart attack once or twice or even three times a year.
Memphis has proven to be a strong member of the AAC and the Tigers and Bearcats have been long-time basketball and football rivals. UC has played Memphis 73 times on the hardwood, making it the Bearcats’ fourth-most frequent opponent behind Louisville (91), Saint Louis (78) and Xavier (76). The two programs have met 33 times on the gridiron as well. Memphis is also the closest candidate to UC, making for a bit less travel. However, that close proximity could come back to bite the Bearcats. Since both teams will be competing for recruits in and around the Ohio/Kentucky/Tennessee area, having the Big 12 name behind it gives UC a leg up. That goes away if Memphis can play that card as well.
Like Memphis, Houston is a rivalry that would be nice to continue to cultivate (fifth most frequent football opponent) but should the Big 12 add the Cougars, UC may as well open a satellite campus somewhere in Texas.
There is not much history at all between UC and UCF, but, if adding a Florida school opens up some more recruiting lanes for the Big 12 (and therefore UC in this scenario), it more than makes up for fewer historical comparisons during game broadcasts.
Similarly, although BYU and Colorado State are both far from long-standing rivals or programs with anything in common with UC, there addition alone could give UC and its potential new conference even more of a national recruiting reach.