Texas Says No to the Big Ten

Not that the Big Ten has even approached Texas yet, but it is no secret the Big Ten is looking to expand. It is also no secret that any conference would love to have Texas. Good academics, strong athletics, great following, huge TV market…great for any conference. But the Athletic Director at Texas has said they like the Big 12 and are just fine. So even if the Big Ten does come knocking, they already know the answer. There’s probably only one Big 12 school the Big Ten would consider, and that’s Missouri.

Missouri is a natural fit in the Big Ten for its natural rivalry with Illinois, strong academics and generally good athletics. The Texas AD said that even if Missouri or another school should leave the conference (see Colorado for Pac-10) then it would be fine because he thinks the schools would stick together and get another team to replace them.

And who can blame them? You have Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma in the same conference. Those are easily 3 of the best programs of all time…not to mention largest fan bases. Any conference with those three will be just fine. But what if Missouri bolted for the Big Ten and Colorado fled to the Pac-10? Could they replace them with two teams?

Quite simply, yes. Their first target would be Arkansas. They would love the old Southwest rivalry to heat up again. But the Hogs seem to be doing just fine in the SEC. Still, there is some appeal to the Big 12, so it might be a tough decision for them. In the end I think they stay in the SEC, but not after long consideration.

So who is on the long list to replace Missouri and Colorado should both teams leave? New Mexico, Houston, TCU, Louisiana Tech, Air Force and Colorado State. Who is on the short list? New Mexico and Louisiana Tech. You see, sports in college is all about money and recruiting. You want to expand the conference. How does adding TCU or Houston accomplish that? More presence in Texas? Not happening. They don’t need it. None of those schools offers anything to the Big 12. Air Force? Too small of a school. They don’t compete in enough sports. Colorado State? Maybe, but why would a school really want to go from middle of the pack in a mediocre conference to bottom dweller of a good conference? That won’t help them at all.

The natural choices seem to be New Mexico and Louisiana Tech. The Big 12 has no recruiting stronghold in Louisiana, and they produce great football players. LA Tech is currently in the WAC (yeah, the W stands for western) so they are a geographic anomaly. They have been an up and coming program, but we’ll have to see with their coach leaving for Tennessee. New Mexico opens up a new market the Big 12 is currently not in. UNM has been a solid basketball school as well.

Is either an ideal situation for the Big 12? Oh heck no. They much prefer to keep Missouri and Colorado. But as back ups, and believe me, there is a back up plan, they are the next best thing. So the Big 12 better hope those guys don’t take off. The contingency plan isn’t looking too hot.

The real losers here, unfortunately, are going to be the mid majors, or non BCS conferences. You see, the Big Ten needs one more team. The Pac-10 needs two more teams. The Big East needs at least two more teams, probably four and maybe five depending on what Syracuse or Pitt does. Where will those teams come from? I can tell you the Pac-10 definitely wants their two coming from the MWC (Utah and BYU) and the Big East definitely will be poaching from the MAC and Conference USA. The MAC can lose Temple and be fine, but if Conference USA loses Marshall, East Carolina, Memphis and UCF, then they really don’t have much of a conference left, especially if by some weird twist Houston leaves for the Big 12 or MWC.

That means the Sun Belt turns into the ultimate loser here, as Conference USA would poach from them, leaving the conference all but empty. So these expansions really could see the end of the Sun Belt and WAC completely. It is going to be an exciting off season to see how all of this plays out.