In my last column, I discussed how the SEC empire increased its power when it was able to acquire University of Texas and University of Oklahoma from the Big 12. Even though the change didn’t go into effect immediately, the Big 12 decided to plan ahead.
They decided to add four new teams to the conference to make sure they don’t disintegrate like the old Big East during conference realignment in the early 2010s. The newest members of the Big 12 conference will include Brigham Young University, University of Cincinnati, University of Houston and University of Central Florida.
Even though the Big 12 is primarily based in the Midwestern area, they are expanding by going into the west with BYU, located in Utah, and the southeast with UCF in Florida.
Although these additions will allow the Big 12 to get some revenue and popularity back, will these additions be able to offset the departure of Texas and Oklahoma?
First, let’s think about what this will mean for powerhouse sports such as football and basketball.
BYU, Cincinnati and UCF will all provide strength in football.
BYU finished last season at No. 11 in the AP Poll, and Cincinnati was at No. 8. Although UCF was not ranked last season, it is a consistently strong program that went undefeated during the 2017 season, finishing the season ranked No. 6 in the nation. Houston football is not the university’s best athletics program, but the team usually goes to bowl games and was once ranked No. 8 in the 2015 season.
Even though none of these programs can rival Oklahoma’s dominance in football, they can easily match Texas’ current state. Altogether, the new additions can give the Big 12 more opportunities to make the top-25 rankings and
potentially compete for a Playoff position.
When it comes to basketball, all these teams can add some more power to the Big 12.
Basketball isn’t typically an issue for the Big 12 with schools such as Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State that regularly dominate the competition. But schools such as Houston and Cincinnati can definitely add another layer to the Big 12’s
Houston was able to make it to the Final Four in last season’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and Cincinnati typically competed closely with Houston in conference play when they were both in the American Athletic Conference.
But don’t count out BYU or UCF either. BYU beat powerhouse Gonzaga when they were both in the same conference, and UCF was almost able to knock off a Zion Williamson-led Duke team a few years ago in the NCAA tournament.
It looks like the Big 12 should still be able to compete in both football and basketball. However, another important factor for the conference is whether or not they can still have enough revenue.
As I mentioned in my last column, Texas and Oklahoma have the highest annual revenues in the conference, so it will be difficult to replicate that. But, with BYU having a large fanbase among the Latter-Day Saints community and UCF being one of the largest schools in terms of enrollment in the country, there is room for potential growth in both revenue and popularity after the loss of its two biggest schools.
Additionally, with Houston and Cincinnati dominating in basketball and football respectively, that can also add on to the money the conference can bring in and distribute to its members.
Scheduling will be tough with these additions since travelling between states such as Utah and Florida for an in-conference matchup is a lot of work. However, there are many benefits for these additions. It was a great strategic move by the Big 12 to get these four schools into the mix.
Losing the flagship schools of two states that have a dominant presence in college sports is not optimal. Still, by expanding its boundaries the Big 12 can tap into new markets which can add more revenue.
The Midwestern, college-town vibe behind the Big 12 might disappear as well by adding schools from large cities like Orlando, Houston and Cincinnati, but that is a small sacrifice that the conference will have to pay to remain relevant.
Overall, the Big 12’s change to be a more nationwide conference can have significant impacts in terms of revenue, popularity and other metrics. This will be a difficult task to accomplish, but if they are strategic about it, it can just work out. Other major conferences like the Big 10, Pac 12 and ACC have expanded to other regions, so why can’t the Big 12 make it function?
How well the move ends up being depends on how well all these schools perform on the field. With the backing of a
top-five conference, these teams can jump to the next level and revitalize the Big 12.
Pratik Thakur is a junior writing about business in the world of college sports. His column, “Money Talks,” runs every other Wednesday.