On Thursday, the Pac-12 announced it will not seek to expand amid talk that conferences around the country could realign following Texas’ and Oklahoma’s decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.
That decision, on the surface, is simple enough, but it may end up having ripple effects. Here’s a look at how the Pac-12’s choice could affect the Big 12, Group of Five schools and the independent BYU Cougars.
The Big 12 was hammered when Texas and Oklahoma decided to leave for the SEC, as those schools are by far the most important to the Big 12’s success.
How would the Big 12 and its schools respond? Would the conference try to steal other Power Five schools to bolster it? Would it try to add some strong Group of Five teams to salvage it? Or would it essentially wither up without its two strongest members as the remaining eight schools look for new conferences?
The jury is still out, of course, but the Pac-12’s decision at least ensures no members of the Big 12 will move to that league. This puts the Big 12 in position where it can go on the offensive in trying to add members.
While it’s possible the Big 12 will be able to steal a team or two from the Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC or ACC, more likely is it the Big 12 will look to the Group of Five ranks (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference) for members if it wants to increase its numbers.
Schools such as UCF, Houston, Memphis and Cincinnati of the AAC and Boise State of the Mountain West have been bandied about as institutions the Big 12 might reasonably pursue. All of those teams have been consistently good the last few years, and stretching into Florida, while adding another team in Texas, would probably be wise.
Although the Big 12 will be a shell of its current self without Texas and Oklahoma, it should still be an attractive upgrade for any G5 school if the Big 12 does indeed start making calls.
Often in these discussions, BYU is mentioned alongside G5 teams, although the Cougars of course are independent in football and thus can be in a category of their own.
For a long time, BYU has appeared to be a bad fit with the Pac-12, hearkening back to its days as the Pac-10. Yes, it makes geographic sense (after all, rival Utah is in the conference), but BYU is not a research institution up to the standards of the Pac-12. Culturally, too, it’s a weird fit.
Rather, BYU to the Big 12 has made more sense if the Cougars were to ever end up in a power conference. Now armed with knowledge that the Pac-12 won’t end up with any of the Big 12’s current members anytime soon, one line of thinking has been that BYU could end up being a team the Big 12 could add.
Of course, the elephant in the room here is that the Big 12 opted not to add the Cougars (or any other school) back when it had a good chance to do so in 2016. But have feelings changed now that Texas and Oklahoma have done what they’ve done?
On Friday, The Athletic’s Max Olson reported that the Big 12 already has its eye on BYU, and Olson took a deep dive into the Cougars’ TV numbers as reasoning for why they would be a good addition to the conference.