The Big 12 is holding a press conference today at 6:30 PM, and they are expected to address the ongoing issue of conference expansion. They may announce new teams today, or they could just provide an update - but rumblings suggest some big news could be coming out of it.
Currently at 10 teams, The Big 12 could expand by two so that its name makes sense, or could add four teams to try to beef up the conference as it looks to remain competitive with the other four “power five” conferences. In theory, they could also stand pat at 10.
Whether they know something we don’t or they’re just looking for the spike in traffic remains to be seen, but BYU TV will be covering the press conference live. The Cougars have long been considered among the favorites for a Big 12 spot should they choose to pursue one rather than remain independent.
Other Big 12 candidates include Air Force, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Rice, SMU, USF, Tulane, and... UConn, still waiting for their conference partner after all these years.
Which leads us to: how might the new round of dominoes impact BC?
1. Nonconference scheduling
About a year ago at this time, BC had very few Power Five opponents lined up on the schedule in future years, so just filling the P5 requirement without having to scramble for waivers was looking like a challenge. As a result, ANY news regarding football scheduling looked potentially relevant to BC.
Thanks to a series of newly announced deals including Stanford, Missouri, and Purdue, BC’s P5 requirement is mostly set for the next 14 or so years.
That said, two or four new Big XII schools add a whole new group of teams that will be looking for P5 opponents and whose games would count toward filling the requirement. Obviously UConn is a school BC has a relationship of some sort with; the Eagles have also faced Colorado State and UCF in recent years. Could we see any of them reappear as P5 opponents?
2. Impact on the ACC
It seems unlikely at this point that Big 12 news would have much of an impact on the ACC. Once upon a time there were rumors that FSU might look to jump in that direction, but that will probably never happen; the ACC looks to be in a good and stable place for the time being.
If the Big 12 made a real power-move, that might cause one of the other conferences to try to make another reactive move, but none of the schools the Big 12 is looking to add would really do much to tilt the balance of power in college athletics aside from BYU who is independent right now anyway.
3. Impact on UMass and UConn
Here’s where the impact on BC gets a little more obvious. UConn is obviously hopeful they will get a spot in the Big 12, which would infuse their football team with a little bit more relevance; whether that’d be good or bad for BC is up for debate. UConn in the Big 12 would give the Eagles a regional Power 5 opponent, but UConn remaining mired in the AAC makes them less of a factor in terms of recruiting.
We have to imagine that the folks in Amherst have their eyes on these developments as well. UMass football as an independent is really not sustainable: they've managed to add a few interesting teams to their schedule, but there are a lot of not so interesting teams as well. A reported 13,000 or so came out to see them face Louisiana Tech at GIllette on Saturday and you have to wonder if they'll even fill their small on-campus venue for their game against our old friends Wagner - especially since they will likely be 1-7 going in to that one.
Whether their best, next play is to try to latch on to a conference or drop to FCS is certainly up for debate among their own alumni, but assuming their plan is to stick out the FBS route, the AAC would be their best conference landing spot. The AAC losing a team or two to the Big 12 could provide UMass the opening they need; you have to think they would be pretty desirable to the AAC as long as they come with basketball.
Be it as an independent, a team in a conference, or an FCS school, so long as UMass is playing football, they will be on BC’s scheduling radar, so this latest round of realignment news is worth keeping an eye on for that reason as well.
It all should be pretty interesting, and we learn more this evening.