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Peavler: Why we can't stop talking about Big 12 expansion

Oklahoma president David Boren looks on before an NCAA college football game between Missouri and Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011.
Oklahoma president David Boren looks on before an NCAA college football game between Missouri and Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011.
Associated Press file

Oklahoma President David Boren let the Big 12 expansion cat back out of the proverbial bag on Wednesday as he said that he wants the conference to expand back to 12 teams.

Here we go again.

All of these expansion rumors are like a train wreck posted on YouTube. You've seen it all before, but you can't help but click again. Besides, what ultimately happens to the Big 12 will have a massive impact on the college football landscape.

Of course, all the schools hoping for a golden ticket into a Power 5 conference are paying close attention. BYU is one of them, but the list includes far-flung teams such as Boise State, Cincinnati and Central Florida. All of them are hoping that the Big 12 will call their name in the near future.

And it's not just teams currently outside of a Power 5 conference that should be intrigued by these comments. Boren's comments signal that there is remaining dissatisfaction within the 10-member Big 12, particularly his comments about the Longhorns Network. Could Larry Scott of the Pac-12 make another bid at creating a new Pac-16 using Big 12 teams? Would the SEC invite Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to join Texas A&M and Missouri to form a superconference?

The Big 12 could very well go the way of the WAC. At the very least, the Big 12 seems to be going down the same road as the Mountain West. The MWC could have made a serious push to become a power conference if it could have held onto BYU, TCU and Utah along with Boise State. The Big 12 over the last five years has watched team after team run off with other Power 5 conferences.

If one more Big 12 team leaves, particularly if it's Texas or Oklahoma, that conference is done as a power conference.

Think that's far-fetched? Boren seems to think that's a possibility.

"How many years can this go on?” Boren asked The Oklahoman. “Finally, it just gets to be really debilitating. I worry about that. That’s something I just worry about long-term about the conference, not short term."

So much for the "we're all happy with 10 teams" narrative the Big 12 leadership tried to sell us.

Speaking of the Big 12 leadership, commissioner Bob Bowlsby went into damage control mode after Boren's comments. Read his response to the Dallas Morning News closely:

"We talk about membership at every meeting," Bowlsby said. "I think our presidents individually have their own opinions on things. President Boren expressed his today. I have not got the indication that the majority of our presidents feel that way. I get the feeling that nothing has changed since we last discussed it."

Notice that Bowlsby did not say that Boren was alone in his expansionist opinion. Rather, Bowlsby said that he doesn't feel that the majority of university presidents in the conference feel that way. That means that Boren is not alone in wanting the conference to expand back to 12 team.

That said, it looks like there's plenty of opposition to expansion for right now inside the Big 12. Of course, attitudes could change in a hurry if the Big 12 got left out of the College Football Playoff again this season.

So, should we expect conference expansion fireworks this summer? It's possible, but not likely.

Boren did not push for immediate expansion. "I think it’s something we should strive for while we have the time, stability, all of that to look and be choosy,” Boren said to The Oklahoman. "(We) can be very selective about who we want to add. It would have to add value to the conference. I think we should."

Some have speculated that the Big 12 wants to do a little poaching of its own and take teams like Florida State and Clemson from the ACC. While there are some indications that all is not well in that conference, particularly since Maryland and Rutgers left to join the Big Ten, but it's a little hard to believe that the Seminoles and Tigers would trade any current issues with the ACC for having to deal with Texas in the Big 12.

After all, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri didn't all leave the Big 12 just for laughs and giggles.

Boren's comments show that powerful people inside the Big 12 want expansion, but not necessarily right away. And while some folks in the national media, including Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, say that BYU is a top choice for a Big 12 invite, Cougar fans have heard that before.

BYU is doing all it can to make itself both available and attractive to a conference like the Big 12. While some point to BYUtv as a sticking point, it's unlikely BYU would let that be a deal breaker. After all, BYUtv is not the Longhorns Network. It is not primarily a sports station and would be able to move on even if it lost broadcasting rights to BYU sporting events.

It would help if BYU had some solid seasons on the field. Anything the Cougars can do to increase the value of its brand will help its case for a Big 12 invite. But as Cougar fans should know by now, an invite is far from a sure thing.

Really, the only thing we know for sure after Boren's comments is that conference realignment is not dead, just asleep for now. And it's anybody's guess how the national landscape will look once the dust is settled.

As for myself, I've already learned to stop worrying about it. That said, conference expansion has national implications. Like that proverbial train wreck, we just can't look away.

Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.