The Big 12 Conference is already expanding, announcing last fall that BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston will join.
Could it expand further, particularly after Texas and Oklahoma leave for the SEC?
One current Big 12 head football coach believes the conference could expand again and become a 14-team league once realignment shakes out.
“We could be at 14 very easily, five years from now, from what I’m hearing,” Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy told The Oklahoman.
“I think there’s strength in numbers. When you watch this thing, the Big 12 always had some issues, because people would say, there’s only 10 (members).”
BYU will join the Big 12 in 2023, with Cincinnati, UCF and Houston joining in either 2023 or 2024.
If the Big 12 expands, who else could join?
There are several schools that have been mentioned as expansion possibilities if the Big 12 hands out invitations again. CBS Sports reported last fall that Boise State and Memphis are among those being discussed for a second round of expansion.
Gundy believes Boise State’s national brand makes it an intriguing national option.
“From a history of success, from what I would call a football school that grabs people’s attention, Boise would be a team that people would be interested in,” Gundy said. “The administrators and whoever makes the deals money-wise would have to decide whether they can get enough people to watch the games. That’s what it comes down to.”
He added: “Just like BYU. Everybody thought BYU was a Power Five school forever. I used to flip (channels), and I’d stop and watch ’em. I think Boise does grab people’s attention.”
On Thursday, The Athletic’s Max Olson published a survey of Big 12 fans — of both current and future teams — regarding the state of the conference and the league’s future.
Part of that survey included looking at further expansion. When asked if the Big 12 should expand again, 59.9% said no. Among fans of the four incoming schools, 67% said no.
The Athletic also asked fans what school they’d prefer if the Big 12 expanded, and included a pair of Pac-12 schools, Arizona and Arizona State, as options “not because adding them seems likely but merely to gauge the interest among Big 12 fans in attempting to swipe them from the Pac-12,” Olson wrote.
Not surprisingly, Arizona State (62.5%) and Arizona (61.9%) received the most votes as potential expansion candidates, ahead of Memphis (45.9%), Boise State (30.9%), SMU (29.8%) and Colorado State (21%).
The Athletic also asked if Big 12 fans would be open to any former Big 12/Southwest Conference members returning, and among those, Nebraska (54.2%) and Arkansas (49.9%) received the most support.
Is it good for the Big 12 to expand?
The biggest question regarding expansion — particularly for a Power Five conference — is how the incoming schools positively impact the bottom line.
“I think there’s strength in numbers,” Gundy told The Oklahoman. “I’m speaking out of turn here, because (Big 12 commissioner Bob) Bowlsby didn’t tell me this. When I just read between the lines, and listen to what people say, including him, even though he’s not speaking directly to the subject, there’s strength in numbers.
“When you have numbers, it allows you to be a little more diversified in what you do. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re at 14 in five years.”