Big 12 Expands With Four Additions To Help Keep Conference Above Water

Written By Chris Imperiale on September 11, 2021 - Last Updated on September 28, 2021

It’s been a crazy few months in the college sports landscape as the future of NCAA athletics continues to change.

After watching Texas and Oklahoma desert the Big 12 for the greener pastures of the SEC, the conference found itself in limbo.

Then, more recently, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC teamed up to form their own alliance.

All this movement left WVU athletics and the remainder of the Big 12 without many options.

On Friday, the conference announced that it has voted to accept four new schools to expand for the future. The current eight colleges unanimously decided to allow BYU, Houston, UCF and Cincinnati to join.

Of course, much of this movement is based strictly around football. The sport generates the most revenue for schools by far.

Once the SEC took two of the most powerful programs in the Big 12, the conference knew it would never be the same. With each of the Power 5 Conferences already teaming up, the rest of the schools had no choice but to add new faces.

Big 12 Conference Agrees To Expand

While WVU athletics might not have the brand recognition or notoriety of Texas and OU, its sports program is certainly successful.

Unfortunately, the school finds itself on the wrong side of conference alignment this time.

WVU previously participated in the Big East Conference up until 2012, when it united with the Big 12. At that time, teams were leaving what appeared to be the dissolving Big East.

Now WVU is getting the shorter end of the deal, as it won’t be among the elite divisions going forward. It will be incredibly interesting to see how this new structure will impact sports like football and basketball.

Clearly, it will change how West Virginia sportsbooks deliver preseason odds.

However, getting some new colleges that have each shared success of late is a positive step. It now seems that at least no one else intends to leave and the Big 12 can rebuild for the better.

About The Additions

All four names are recognizable, especially if you pay attention to the two most popular sports.

BYU was once a national power in the 1980s that saw quarterbacks like Steve Young and Ty Detmer excel and move on to the NFL.

It just had another signal caller taken with a top pick as the Jets selected QB Zach Wilson this past spring.

Cincinnati football has been stronger than ever in recent years. The Bearcats qualified for a bowl the last three seasons under head coach Luke Fickell.

In fact, Cinci won the American Athletic Conference in 2020 and just narrowly lost to Georgia in the Peach Bowl.

The school is ranked No. 7 this season following a big opening-week victory.

Houston football is also producing solid results, although it hasn’t been as strong lately. With Tom Herman leading the team, the Cougars went 22-4 in two seasons through 2016.

They’ve been closer to .500 in the last few years and are currently coached by former Mountaineer Dana Holgorsen.

UCF earned plenty of wins during the past couple of college football seasons as well.

The school is becoming a rotating door for up-and-coming coaches. Both Scott Frost and Josh Heupel won over 73% of games in Orlando before moving onto improved jobs.

In 2017, UCF went 13-0 and actually claimed the national title after beating Auburn in its bowl.

While these programs aren’t exactly the ones you find in the SEC, they all feature very legitimate athletic programs with promising football prospects.

Big 12 Growth

BYU stated that it has intentions of joining the conference in 2023. Each of the others is in line to become Big 12 members in 2024.

Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, is optimistic about his conference and the direction it’s taking. According to ESPN, he said:

“I think that these are very high-quality football programs that are additive to the Big 12 and have the capability, especially with an array of stronger opponents within the conference, we have an opportunity to demonstrate how we can play at the national level.”

Part of the issue in losing those like Texas and Oklahoma is it limits the conference’s chances of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Sooners qualified for the four-team postseason four times already.

Hopefully, the Big 12 can find similar success with the teams that remain and the four newcomers.

It’s also possible that the conference isn’t done expanding just yet. Schools like Memphis expressed disappointment at not being chosen to join.

Bowlsby continued:

“We’re always going to be open to new opportunities as they present themselves. We’re living in a very fast-changing athletic environment, and we will be at 14 for a while, we will drop back to 12, and as there are targets of opportunity or as there are situations that dictate that we change composition, we’ll be prepared to do those things.”

Although this is happening awfully quickly, it appears the Big 12 is adjusting to the current times and should be just fine in the future.

Photo by Rick Bowmer / The Associated Press
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Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale is currently the Managing Editor of Catena Media's US online lottery site, PlayiLottery. He used to be the Managing Editor of PlayWV, covering the sports betting and online casino industries in the Mountain State. He has a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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