CINCINNATI — The Big 12 meetings ended last week in Irving, Texas. The conference approved a championship football game and passed out checks for $30.4 million to each member.
What the league didn’t do was move forward on expansion. It also didn’t kill the idea.
University of Oklahoma President David Boren said to reporters at the meetings: “We are certainly continuing to consider possible expansion and what that might do in terms of how it might impact the conference, both positively and negatively. We’re looking at the whole picture.”
For the University of Cincinnati, that can’t have them dancing in the streets of Clifton.
Think about it: The Big 12 has to decide to expand, despite opposition from conference heavyweight Texas, and UC has to emerge from a crowded field to get one of two likely spots. Houston, Brigham Young, Memphis, South Florida, Central Florida and Colorado State also want in.
UC has little choice but to wait and see. There is no Plan B. None of the other Power 5 conferences — Big 10, SEC, ACC or Pac 12 — is even considering expansion. And, if they did, UC would not be considered.
It’s hard to say how UC stacks up against the others trying to get into the Big 12. The conference did dismiss the idea of creating a television network. That made market size less important, which probably helps UC.
Boren said the league is looking for programs that upgrade the conference.
“(Expansion) does give some marginal gain,” Boren told reporters. “But you have to weigh that against reputational impacts. In other words, our fans want to see our teams play against great teams. They don’t want to see them play mediocre teams. We have to determine what that’s going to do to the longtime reputation of the brands at each of the schools and what quality of opponents we’re having.”
You could make a strong case that UC tops that list — basketball national titles, trips to Orange and Sugar bowls in the recent past.
But waiting and seeing will be tough for the Bearcat Nation. If word comes down that the Big 12 isn’t expanding or that it is expanding, but UC was left out, the Bearcats are in a mid-major until further notice.
That can work for the basketball program. Villanova, a school from a non-Power 5 conference, is the current national champion. Bob Huggins’ Final Four and Elite Eight berths came when UC was in the Great Midwest.
It doesn’t work as well football. Houston went the Peach Bowl. That was the best bowl the AAC earned. The Peach Bowl is nominally a BCS Bowl, but it isn’t the Sugar Bowl or Orange Bowl.
Again, there’s no Plan B for the Bearcats. They’ve just got to hope that expansion happens and an invitation comes their way. They’ve put the time and money in to get noticed by the Big 12.