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Big 12 Conference Eyes Four Schools for Expansion

Paul Steinbach

The impact of Texas and Oklahoma joining the Southeastern Conference, finalized in late July, continues to produce aftershocks.

Less than a month later came the announcement of a strategic alliance formed by the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC. The Athletic now reports that the Big 12, the conference most left in the cold by the Texas and Oklahoma defections, intends to expand by four teams and that the Big Ten, too, considered expansion before joining the aforementioned alliance.

Sources told The Athletic that the four schools on the Big 12's radar are Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston, with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowsby visiting the latter campus Thursday. Bowlsby met with the athletic directors of the conferences remaining eight schools in Dallas on Tuesday and Wednesday, and if agreement can be reached on which schools to invite, expansion will likely happen quickly.

“The eight ADs remain committed to furthering the Big 12 as one of the nation’s premier athletic conferences, and look forward to working with our presidents and chancellors to strengthen the league,” Bowlsby said in a statement on Wednesday. “Future exploration by the group will continue to center on options that best position the long-term strength of the Conference.”

The Pac-12’s announcement last Thursday that it will not expand at this time left the Big 12's eight ADs have few options beyond preparing for the Texas-Oklahoma exit when the conference's television deal expires in 2025.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten had mulled expansion before entering the alliance. 

“We started to talk about, should we ever add any schools to the Big Ten Conference?” University of Iowa athletic director Barta said, as reported by The Athletic. “We certainly haven't said we never will. But in short run, with all the things that would have to be included to join the conference, we didn't identify anybody as a conference that we would immediately go after that would fit.”

In going after the Longhorns and Sooners, the SEC further solidified its status as the nation's most powerful conference, certainly in football, and it will eventually represent the country's first "super conference" at 16 teams.

Barta said the 14-member Big Ten felt compelled “to react to this,” but the consensus was “we’re in a really good place.”

That's not to say that the alliance doesn't pose logistical challenges, with some Big Ten schools contractually obligated to certain non-conference games as far out as 2030.

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