Big 12 Expansion: WVU sues the Big East

With the threat of Mizzou's impeding move, the Big 12 may only have 9 teams for 2012, which appears to put them at jeopardy for meeting their end of the TV contract. This is why they have been talking about Mizzou playing in 2012. As a fail safe they approach BYU but that has hit an impasse. Then they approach the next teams on their list, WVU and Louisville. WVU was willing to try to get out of the Big East in time for 2012 play so here we are. WVU has filed a lawsuit to leave the Big East before the 27 months hold and start Big 12 play in 2012.

Without this lawsuit, the Big East would have rebuilt itself for 2013 play, and the all the Big East teams who wanted out would likely have been out by 2013 rather than 2014. So in all likelihood this lawsuit makes for a 1 year difference. The Big 12 could have taken a harder look for a 2013 arrival while continuing to work on BYU. The Big 12 could and should have worked harder to keep Missouri. All the same time they could have taken Louisville, Cincinnati and WVU and declare the Big 12 is becoming the Big 14 by 2014. Any TV contract problems with 9 members should Missouri leaves could have been renegotiated in light of a forth comming Big 14.

This 27 month clause is similar to the 1 year clause by the C-USA, and even the 6 years tier 1 & tier 2 ownership clause by the Big 12. WVU was a willing participant of the 27 months Big East clause, as it is now a willing participant of the 6 years media ownership clause of the Big 12. These clauses serve the conference members by insuring short term stability, and enough time for the conference to reconstitute itself. I think this lawsuit really put WVU, and the Big 12, in a bad light. I am thinking when will WVU do the same to the Big 12. I am thinking how manipulative the Big 12 appears. The Big 1G, the ACC, the SEC, and the Pac10 did not need any such shenanigans.


Big East: Rebuild for Synergy

The Big East is having a tough year. So far three football programs have officially declared their departure (Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia) and three more are looking to leave (Cincinnati, Connecticut, and Louisville). To rebuild, the Big East is looking to rebuild with teams like Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Navy, Southern Methodist, and possibly Army and Temple. Of these I do not believe Air Force or Boise State will join up. In fact, the target goal of the new Big East is 12 teams; I think they should plan for 14 just in case Louisville and Cincinnati both decides to leave. The teams under consideration are the best available from the C-USA, MAC, and independents but I believe additional teams should be considered.

There are no major teams left but the Big East did pretty good taking C-USA teams and with a higher level of competition, made them more competitive (Cincinnati, Louisville, and USF all come to mind) if not on the field definitely on college football fans' awareness. The best way to rebuild the Big East is to make sure that TVs are tuned to Big East games. Major media market are needed but rather than spread out to cover more markets, major markets within "reach" should be saturated. By this I mean have two Big East teams to cover each market so that each fall weekend a Big East game is played loco-regionally. The two teams thus should alternate home games for the season, with one game against each other to open the season. Once awareness is maintained or even raised, it will be easier to recruit and thus build better teams in the process.

Thus I propose the following. Listed are two teams set for synergy, each will play each other once a year every year but will be in different divisions of the Big East. Each team will also play 5-6 in division games (5 for a Big East with 12 teams, 6 for a Big East with 14 teams) as well as 2 rotating cross division games (staggered for a home and away game each). I have arranged the divisions based also on each team's average ranking from 1960-2010 as listed at mcubed. I have also included two teams making the transition from D2 to D1 for their geography, Villanova and UMass (both in italics below). These two teams will be placed in separate divisions. A contest should be conducted to name the two divisions as they will not be amenable to East & West or North & South. In the list, current Big East programs are in bold. Since in basketball divisions will not matter so much as all teams can play each other, the basketball only non-football programs are not listed.

Division A & Division B (mcubed average ranking 1960-2010)
Cincinnati (67.1) & Louisville (63.3) [Ohio Valley]
Connecticut (69.3) & Massachusetts (NA) [New England]
Buffalo (96.7) & Rutgers (73.2) [New York & Jersey]
South Florida (46.3) & Central Florida (72.3) [Florida]
Southern Methodist (69.3) & Houston (53.1) [Texas]
Villanova (89.9) & Temple (76.4) [Philadelphia]
Navy (68.7) & Army (80.5) [Military]
Average mcubed (72.5) & (69.8)

The two matched programs should open conference play with each other. Given inclusion of a bye week, all Big East programs can open conference play over two weekends. To foster a sense of rivalry and Big East conference should pay for a trophy of some sort trophy to represent these games but allow the two teams to name the trophy. The Big East would be smart to award the winner of the trophy a donation to their general scholarship fund ($10k+?). A scholarship contribution would make it more than a game trophy and get buy in from students (prospective, current, and alumni) and faculty. The Big East would be extra smart if it uses the exit fee money from teams leaving to create an endowment fund for a "Big East" scholarship at each schools (to remain at each school as long as they are members). The rivalry game prize money would go into this endowment fund. All this would generate a certain buzz and allow the Big East to market their conference play openers.

The Big East should also open conference play with the annual cross division rivalry games because it is possible that both teams could become division champions and a rematch could occur in the Big East championship game. Better to put as many games between their first encounter and their last encounter.

This Big East does not guarantee an automatic bid to the BCS (average rankings for the new Big East is 71.3 as compared to 57 for the old) but it does help lay a foundation for a good conference. How so? Well in addition to markets and marketing opportunities, this Big East will also have footprints in 5 of the top 10 states for for football recruitment according to Rivals (#1 Texas, #2 Florida, #5 Ohio, #6 Pennsylvania, and #10 New Jersey. The Big East has to rebuild for the long term.

Additional Notes.
1. The new Big East could start play in 2013 or 2014, depending on when they let out exiting members.
2. Average travel for both divisions are similar, both contain the Ohio Valley, New England, Florida, Texas and Philadelphia.
3. Both Buffalo and Rutgers are AAU members and are matched against each other.
4. If both Cincinnati and Louisville leave, the conference would still be OK with 12 teams.
5. If Boise State and Air Force joins, they would be set as cross division rivals.
6. If Notre Dame stays, their football team should play 4-6 games against Big East programs. This would help strength of schedule as well as another marketing opportunity.


Big 14 in 2014

News came today that West Virginia University has been accepted into the Big 12 in July 2012. Interesting enough, the long anticipated Missouri's departure to the SEC still has not happened. The word is that the Big 12 is to stay at 10 teams for now. I just don't see that happening. Firstly, how can WVU join in 2012 when the Big East will hold all members to the 27 months notification. Sure WVU will try to renegotiate their exit terms but the Big East can only lose to allow any team to leave before the Big East is ready. Definitely a domino concern is in play as one team leaving early will mean three teams leaving early, which may leave the Big East short of 8 teams necessary to be a NCAA conference. Secondly, why unlikely, Missouri may still stay in the Big 12. Finally, I believe the current TV contract specifies 12 teams and a minimum of 10. Come time to renew and renegotiate the TV contract time returns in 6 years the Big 12 will be certainly negotiate based on the number of teams they have. Numbers provide for both stability and profit.

Thus I believe if Mizzou leaves and West Virginia cannot play in 2012 the Big 12 will need another team for 2012. I also believe that if Mizzou stays the Big 12 will be at 11 and will then consider adding another team to go to 12. Big 12 expansion will not end with West Virginia. Going to 14 however is another matter and in part will depends on what happens with between Missouri leaving and West Virginia playing, i.e. team 11 (with WVU being team 10 to replace Missouri). Team 11 cannot come from the Big East if WVU cannot play before 2014. Brigham Young University remains in play for this reason. Notre Dame is a wish list that will not happen in 2012. If not Brigham Young then it leaves an opportunity for a C-USA team (of which I believe Tulane is the leading candidate over alternatives such as Rice, Southern Mississippi, Central Florida, or Memphis) or a MWC team (Air Force has been ruled out, leaving San Diego State, Colorado State, possibly New Mexico). Of these I think the top two for the Big 12 expansion before 2014, in order, are Brigham Young and Tulane. It is possible that the Big 12 may decide to pick up both to go to 12 rather than just one and go to 11. If invited, unlike BYU, Tulane will jump at the chance.
But when WVU cannot play in 2012 the Big 12 will have to decide whether to take any other teams from the Big East while they still can. The teams to consider then, in order, will be Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida.

So lets then look at how the Big 12 with 12 teams might be configured. In a previous post I laid out divisions based on rivalries. I still believe this is the best approach. To review, the major rivalries in the Big 12 (with Missouri as they have not left yet, but without Colorado, Nebraska, or Texas A&M) are:

Kansas & Missouri (Border War since 1891)
Texas & Oklahoma (Red River Rivalry since 1900)
Kansas & Kansas State (Sunflower Showdown since 1902)
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State (Bedlam Series since 1904)

Texas & Kansas State (Chisholm Trail since 1913)
Iowa State & Kansas State (Farmageddon since 1917)
Texas & Texas Tech (Chancellor's Spurs since 1928)
Oklahoma & Missouri (Peace Pipe since 1929)
Baylor & Texas Tech (Texas Farm Bureau Shootout since 1929)
Iowa State & Missouri (Telephone Trophy since 1959)
Texas Christian & Baylor (Great Revival since 1899)

The rivalries in bold will be used as the basis to divide the conference zipper style, with these games representing annual cross division games (an addition 2 cross division games will be rotating, along with the 5-6 in division games). As represented, the first column will represent one division and the second column the other division.

Kansas State & Kansas (Sunflower Showdown since 1902)
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State (Bedlam Series since 1904)
Texas & Texas Tech (Chancellor's Spurs since 1928)
Texas Christian & Baylor (Great Revival since 1899)
Iowa State & Missouri (Telephone Trophy since 1959)

Division A will have Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Christian, and Iowa State. Division A will also preserve the Red River rivalry (Oklahoma & Texas), the Chisholm Trail (Kansas State & Texas) and Farmageddon (Kansas State & Iowa State).
Division B will have Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor, and possibly Missouri. Division B will also preserve the Border War (Kansas & Missouri) and the Texas Farm Bureau Shootout (Texas Tech and Baylor).
One rivalry will not be preserved in this alignment, the Peace Pipe between Oklahoma and Missouri. The Chisholm Trail predates this rivalry and since Missouri may leave I thought it better to preserve the Chisholm Trail over the Peace Pipe rivalry.

With just WVU replacing Missouri there would be no reason to have divisions at 10 teams. But if Missouri stay the Big 12 will take one more, lets say either BYU or Tulane, then I would arrange the following matches:

Kansas State & Kansas
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State
Texas & Texas Tech
Texas Christian & Baylor
Iowa State & Missouri
Brigham Young/Tulane & West Virginia

If Missouri leaves but WVU cannot play till 2014, and the Big 12 takes 1-2 for 2012, and with WVU go to 12 for 2014, then the following could be considered. I am certain the Big 12 will go back to at least 12.

Kansas State & Kansas
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State
Texas & Texas Tech
Texas Christian & Baylor
Iowa State & Tulane (both AAU, both fairly matched in competitiveness)
Brigham Young & West Virginia (both fairly matched in average ranking from 1960-2010 at 42.9 and 40.4, both extreme geographic ends of the Big 12)

Now if the Big 12 decides on more Big East teams than just WVU, then take the match set of Louisville & Cincinnati (the Keg of Nail rivalry). The Big 14 cross division would be zippered as follows:

Kansas State & Kansas
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State
Texas & Texas Tech
Texas Christian & Baylor
Iowa State & Tulane
BYU & West Virginia
Cincinnati & Louisville

A solid conference in football, basketball, market reach, and overall quality. This is my preferred Big 14.

Should BYU not join, then I believe the Big 12 will take Tulane to go to 10 till the Big East teams joins. In addition to Louisville & Cincinnati, the Big 12 should consider South Florida as their average ranking (1960-2010) is 46.3, and will give the Big 12 direct entry and presence in the Florida market for viewers and recruitment. The Big 14 in 2014 thus could be:

Kansas State & Kansas
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State
Texas & Texas Tech
Texas Christian & Baylor
Iowa State & Tulane
South Florida & West Virginia
Cincinnati & Louisville
A pretty damn fine conference as well.

But if there is a chance Missouri stays, this is what the Big 14 in 2014 should look like:
Kansas & Kansas State
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State
Texas & Texas Tech
Texas Christian & Baylor
Iowa State & Tulane
Missouri & West Virginia
Cincinnati & Louisville


College Football Big 12 Realignment & Provisional Membership

No Big East teams will be a replacement for Missouri in the Big 12 because of their 27 months hold with the SEC. Missouri say if they leave they will leave to play elsewhere in 2012, which means the Big 12 will take a team that can start conference play in 2012. Even if Missouri does not leave till 2013, the Big East teams will not be available till 2014. This is where BYU comes in and probably why they are still being pursued. BYU can probably start conference play in 2012 and definitely by 2013 if they choose to join.

If the Big 12 decides to take the Big East teams anyway, which is what I hope the Big 12 does and go to 14 ("Big 14" is owned by the Big 12) then taking WVU, Louisville, and Cincinnati would be preferred as a package rather than just two of the three, as along with Iowa State would allow for future regional play as well as concentration of geography within the B1F footprint. These three teams may not start Big 12 conference play until 2014, 2013 at the earliest. Thus i see an opportunity for a program to demonstrate its commitment to taking it to "Big 14" level. Such a program would have to start this year and demonstrate itself over the next year or two. Think of it as a provisional membership plan?

For programs currently weak in football play but with excellent academics, the program needs to show commitment to improving itself, partly through on field performance, but more so through building athletic infrastructures such as an on campus stadium of sufficient size and other athletic facilities, coaching hires and staffs, and general support from the institution to its athletic program (not just football). It may also be easier for a strong academic program to commit to academic because academic is the true raison d'etre for universities. If mission one is already accomplished, then mission two, brand building will come easier. For most university, brand building is easiest with athletics. If for simplicity rating programs for good academics uses AAU membership, then there would be three available AAU programs outside of AQ conference: Buffalo, Rice, and Tulane. Buffalo is probably too far away, thus leaving Rice and Tulane.

For programs currently strong in football play but weak in academics, it will need to demonstrate a commitment to improving its academic. This means faculty recruitment, grants awards, and quality improvements. Since most programs are likely doing what it can already to improve academics, I do not see these programs as viable provisional members. When you get down to it there is only one program in this category: Boise State. They have an excellent football program but relatively weak in their academic. I do not think Boise State can do much in the next few years.

Then there are programs lacking excellence in academic and football, but are decent in both. To build up both athletic and academic at the same time is a Herculean effort. They would have to be on the cusp, just needing a bit more time and a bit more resources. The only program that springs to mind is Florida International, strong in academic and in a good geography to build their athletic (Florida).

Another consideration is private programs vs public program. In this consideration the private program will have an edge. For a public institution to increase its effort for academic of athletic will require support from the state government and I just do not see this happening. With the current state of the economy, falling tax collection and government deficit, most state governments would be hard press to commit more money to athletic program building. While the state of the economy is poor for private institution as well, their alumni base may be better positioned tax wise to donate, as well as a desire to see their alma mater compete better.

In final consideration, if the Big 14 does consider provisional membership, the following programs have an opportunity and I list them in order: Tulane, Rice, Buffalo, and Florida Atlantic.


Big 12 Old and New by the Numbers

The Big 12 took a huge hit losing Nebraska, Texas A&M, Colorado, and possibly Missouri. To even get close to where it was it needs 14 teams. The lost is felt across the board in football competitiveness, fan base, money, and AAU.

None of the potential Big 12 candidates individually comes close to a Nebraska, Texas A&M, Colorado, or Missouri. They are all mixed bags.

BYU is a good addition if it happens, as BYU is a competitive program in football and strong in academic endowment though not AAU. BYU though can gain viewers in Utah as well as nationally.
Boise State is competitive athletics but weak in academic. There are few viewers in Idaho but they do have a national presence now.
Cincinnati is a solid pick with decent competitiveness, fans and money (more than BYU). They also bring part of the Ohio market.
Colorado State is decent in competitiveness, fans and money. The Colorado market may be primed for a Big 12 presence after the lost of Colorado. There are many Big 12 fans there who are not Colorado U fans.
Louisville is also decent in football competitiveness, fans, though less money than Cincinnati but more than Colorado State. Louisville is also a decent market for the Big 12 to gain.
New Mexico is a weak competitor, few fans, and little money. They are a neighboring state to the Big 12 though with a decent market in Albuquerque.
Southern Mississippi is a strong competitor and has a decent fan base but little money. The market is small and behind Mississippi and Mississippi State. But Mississippi brings the Big 12 that much closer to Florida, a huge market and recruitment ground for players.
Tulane is a weak competitor, small fan base, but good endowment and AAU. Tulane is also in New Orleans a very good market and destination. The Big 12 can afford a few weak competitor who are good academics and bring new market to the league. The Big 12 already has plenty of competitive programs on the field and may need to replenish its AAU memberships.
West Virginia is a strong competitor, large fan base, and decent money but not a strong academic nor a large market. The market is decent if you include Pittsburgh and Northern Virginia though.
SMU and Houston were not included in the analysis because there are already 4 Texas teams and neither would bring new market share.

Overall I would rate the contenders in the following order.
1. BYU
2. WVU
3. Cincinnati
4. Louisville
5. Tulane
6. Boise State
7. Southern Mississippi
8. Colorado State
9. New Mexico

BYU and WVU would become matched rivals for cross division annual play. Same with Cincinnati and Louisville (Keg of Nails since 1929). If Tulane replaces Missouri, then Tulane would be matched with Iowa State. All seems like good matches to me.


Big 12 Should Look East

News today is that the Big East plans to go to 12 football teams. Their options are limited however with candidates like Air Force, Army, Navy, Temple, East Carolina, Central Florida, Houston and SMU. None of the teams mentioned are from Automatic Qualifying conferences, but teams mentioned (with the omission of Boise State and BYU) are among the best of the rest. If the Big 12 rest at 10, then the opportunity to take teams from the Big East, or these "best of the rest" will be severely limited.

When the Big 12 expands back up to 12, and possibly 14 (given the Big 12 currently owns the copy rights to Big 14), the expansions should consider new markets for both football as well as basketball, major metropolitan areas, and academics. While final decisions cannot come until Missouri decides whether to leave to the SEC or not, the Big 12 expanding to at least 12 now might entice Missouri to stay. Given all these considerations, the Big 12 should move now rather than later.

Which way to expand? If the Big 12 looks to improve both its football and basketball footprints, then it should look to what conference currently are strong in football and basketball. This means Big 10 and SEC for football and ACC and Big East for basketball. All these states are east of the current Big 12 footprint, not west. All these states also have higher population densities than the states west of the Big 12. While geographic continuity should be considered, there are options eastward the Big 12 should consider.

Firstly, I favor the Big 12 inviting at least Louisville and Cincinnati now. Both have reasonably competitive athletics, both have reasonable academics, and both are in complementary population markets. Both straddle the Big 10 and SEC footprints, allowing the Big 12 higher visibility in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. West Virginia should also be considered if Missouri leaves and the SEC does not pick up West Virginia though this is mostly a football gain only. It is important to remember that the Big East programs needs to give 27 months notice, and may not be available for Big 12 conference play until the 2014 season.

Secondly, the Big 12 should consider penetrating the SEC territory by considering Tulane and Southern Mississippi. Tulane has strong academics and appears interested in strengthening its athletics. Tulane is AAU to replace the AAU that are lost (Colorado, TA&M, Missouri, and "Nebraska"). Southern Mississippi is strong in football, a rival for Tulane, and moves the Big 12 a bit closer to Florida, a major recruiting field and leaves option for addition of Florida teams in the future.

I think the Big 12 will lose out if it does not move ahead of the Big East. BYU and Boise State can both wait and be added later.


Big 12 Reorganization.

With the Big 12 inviting TCU and TCU accepting membership, it looks like the Big 12 has at least stabilized some (pending Missouri's decision, which I hope and expect to remain with the Big 12). Additional candidates are likely to go to 12 if not 14. I think this would be a good time to look at the organization for division formation. Previously with 12 teams, it was a North vs South with the line drawn between Kansas and Oklahoma. This geography would be hard to re-establish, and an East-West split would also constrain current rivalries as well as future additions. Witness the SEC with 13 teams, 7 West and 6 East. Either the SEC will have to redraw its division if it adds Missouri, or be constrained to take a team to the East (West Virginia? Virginia Tech? Miami? A North Carolina team?). And then what would have to change when it feels 16 teams is needed? Redrawing division lines while preserving traditional rivalries will be difficult for any conference. Thus the Big 12 should give serious consideration now, before it has divisions, as to how the divisions should be drawn to accommodate future growth.

While conference realignment appears largely about money, the best thing about college sports is rivalries and these must be preserved in any division alignments. Thus if rivalries are to be preserved, why not build divisions around rivalries? Currently in the Big 12 there are the following rivalries, from oldest to youngest (rivalries with Texas A&M not included).
Kansas & Missouri (Border War since 1891)
Texas & Oklahoma (Red River Rivalry since 1900)
Kansas & Kansas State (Sunflower Showdown since 1902)
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State (Bedlam Series since 1904)
Texas & Kansas State (Chisholm Trail since 1913)
Iowa State & Kansas State (Farmageddon since 1917)
Texas & Texas Tech (Chancellor's Spurs since 1928)
Oklahoma & Missouri (Peace Pipe since 1929)
Baylor & Texas Tech (Texas Farm Bureau Shootout since 1929)
Iowa State & Missouri (Telephone Trophy since 1959).

As can seen in the above, keeping all the rivalries within one division will not be practical. There are two kinds of rivalries, intra-state and inter-states. Since there are more inter-state rivalries, and rivalries should be annual games, it makes more sense to build divisions based on inter state rivalries and keeping intra state state rivalries as an annual inter-division game. With this format the following intra-state rivalries will split the conference into two.
Oklahoma & Oklahoma State
Kansas & Kansas State
Texas & Texas Tech

Around this we will add inter-state rivals, keeping interstate rivals in the same division. In the South we have Oklahoma & Texas (so Oklahoma and Texas should be in the same division). In the North we have Kansas & Missouri and Missouri & Oklahoma (so these 3 teams should be in the same division). The result is Division A: Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas with Division B: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. Given that both Iowa State and Missouri do not have in state and in conference rivals, and they are rivals as well, the two will be matched as cross division rivals. Now Division B has Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. There remains two teams for placement, Texas Christian and Baylor. Texas Christian has an 106 games rivalry with Baylor and a 51 games rivalry with Texas Tech. Baylor has a 67 games rivalry with Texas Tech. Thus Texas Christian and Baylor should be in opposite divisions, with Baylor in the same division as Texas Tech.
Thus we end with:
Division A: Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Christian.
Division B: Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech.

The balance of power appears to favor Division A (with current upper powers Oklahoma and Texas and mid powers Missouri and Texas Christian) over Division B (with current upper power Oklahoma State and mid powers Kansas State and possibly Texas Tech). But power rankings will change from season to season. Besides, with cross division rivalries, all the strong teams from one division will play against the other division teams as well. With expansion to 12 or 14, addressing power imbalance can occur.

Each year each team should play its cross division rival to open conference play. Playing your cross division rival first because should a set of cross division rivals end up being division champions, their rematch in the division championship would come after all conference plays have occurred. It would also be a great way to start conference play.
Baylor opens with Texas Christian.
Iowa State opens with Missouri.
Kansas opens with Kansas State.
Kansas State opens with Kansas.
Missouri opens with Iowa State.
Oklahoma opens with Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State opens with Oklahoma.
Texas opens with Texas Tech.
Texas Christian opens with Baylor.
Texas Tech opens with Texas.

Another benefit to divisions based on rival is that travel cost for each team also averages out more evenly. In the old Big 12 division the southern teams had a shorter distance to travel (Oklahoma and Texas) while the northern teams had longer travel distance (Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska). In a division of rivals both divisions have Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas with one also has Iowa while the other Missouri. I also see this as enhancing the smaller state's presence within more populous Texas for exposure, fan building, and recruitment.

With a conference built on rivalries, any additions to the Big 12 should thus be recruited as rivals set. For instance Louisville + Cincinnati (or West Virginia), BYU + Boise State (or West Virginia), Tulane + Southern Mississippi, etc. The rivals division is practical for 12 or 14 teams arrangement. It will need a bit of tweaking for 16 teams though.

Finally, each conference teams should try to cultivate annual extra-conference rivalries. For instance Iowa State and Iowa, Texas and Texas A&M, Texas Christian and Southern Methodist, and Texas Tech and New Mexico. Of the expansion candidates, it would be BYU v Utah (or Boise State), Louisville vs Kentucky, WVU vs Pittsburgh, and Tulane vs LSU for instance. These inter-conference games would highlight the conferences against each other at the beginning of the season, whereas bowl games will highlight them at the end.


Big 12 Expansion Candidates

The Big 12 will expand this season, taking in my opinion 3-6 teams (depending on whether Missouri leaves or not) and will soon have 12+ members again. This means an 8-9 games conference schedule. Any expansion candidates must consider this schedule, leaving only 2-3 non conference games available. Some of these non-conference games must include games against national and regional rivals. Regional rivals are particularly important to establish a regional presence to build both a fan base and capture media market. Local fans are the most important as they will attend games, buy team related products. A large local fans base will also force more media attention and service.

The leading candidate so far is BYU. BYU has the largest sporting presence in Utah as well as a national presence. Their non conference games would include Boise State, Utah, and possibly one other. These regional non-conference games will certainly help BYU to deliver Utah.

If the Big 12 wants geographical continuity with BYU as well as regain the Colorado market, it must consider a Colorado program. Colorado left the Big 12 for the Pac 12 will not be coming back. That leaves the Air Force Academy or Colorado State. The available number of non-conference games almost certainly rule out Air Force Academy. Air Force will want to play Army and Navy each year. Air Force has also been a frequent competitor of Notre Dame. For Air Force to grab the Colorado market, it must also play against instate rivals Colorado and Colorado State. This is particularly true for Air Force because despite being in Colorado, it neither recruits nor serves Colorado. Both Colorado and Colorado State thus must be a part of the non-conference schedule. Playing both of these Colorado teams along with Army and Navy just is not practical. On the other hand Colorado State non-conference schedule would include the biggest sporting event in Colorado when it plays against the University of Colorado. It would also highlight a Big 12 vs Pac 12 rivalry (similar to a Iowa State vs Iowa game). Colorado State other rivalry with Wyoming would also help deliver the Colorado market. My analysis would favor Colorado State rather than Air Force for the Colorado market.

Another populous state with potential for cross conference rivalry is Louisiana. Here I think Tulane is our best option for the Big 12. Tulane is an AAU member. Tulane is a well established institution in New Orleans and a historical rival to LSU. True Tulane is not very competitive on the field but teams get better by playing against good teams regularly (which the current even shrunken Big 12 has plenty of) and by investing in its athletic program financially. Being a part of an Automatic Qualifying conference will bring more experience and money to Tulane. Given that Tulane is fairly well established in academics, there would be less of an issue for Tulane to put more money into Athletics. Tulane's non-conference rivalries with LSU and Southern Mississippi would certainly help gain viewers in the southern Gulf coast region. The alternative program to Tulane in Louisiana is Louisiana Tech. However, Louisiana Tech is not located in a major metropolitan area, not strong in academic, and doesn't have as much of a presence as Tulane. Tulane was recently mentioned as a potential candidate and they should be considered.

New Mexico might be a consideration but this should be a last resort to fill a gap and round out conference membership to an even number rather than a primary or even secondary target for expansion. There are two teams in New Mexico, University of New Mexico and New Mexico State. Neither are academically outstanding and both have equivalent metropolitan area (Albuquerque and Las Cruces + El Paso). Albuquerque might be a reasonable consideration. A better choice for the Las Cruces + El Paso market would be UTEP rather than New Mexico State. New Mexico could have an outside shot at being considered for the Big 12.

UTEP really doesn't add much to the Big 12 that it doesn't already own in Texas. The top 3 teams in Texas are UT, TA&M, and TTU. TA&M is now lost to the SEC. TCU might be a consideration in that it is the only remaining Texas team with a national recognition. However, SMU isn't so far behind and nor is Houston. Perhaps the best reason to take TCU is to deny the Big East a Texas presence. Of the remaining Big 12 states none have any in state options of note. Of the surrounding states there really no viable options either beyond those mentioned above(Colorado State, Tulane, and New Mexico), whether it be Arkansas, Arizona, the Dakotas or Wyoming.

There is the option of raiding the Big East by taking Louisville, Cincinnati, and even West Virginia. I seriously doubt the Big East will fold any time soon. In addition, if Missouri leaves, these 3 Big East programs will be even less attractive. There won't be geographical continuity. Missouri in this sense is the Big 12's gateway east and these 3 school's gateway west.

Looking West there remains Boise State. Though a very competitive football program, unfortunately Boise State doesn't offer much else, whether it be academic, geographical proximity, or regional media market. However, like New Mexico, Boise State will be considered as a filler team.

In summary, my assessment of expansion candidates for the Big 12 are:
Tier 1: BYU (to replace TA&M)
Tier 2: Louisville, Cincinnati, WVU, (only if Missouri stays, and even so, unlikely)
Tier 3: TCU, Colorado State, and Tulane
Tier 4: Boise State, New Mexico
I can see the Big 12 going to 14 for both stability (should another team leaves) as well as parity with the ACC and the SEC. I do not see the Big 12 going to 16 because there isn't a reason to yet, and because when the time come, a 14 teams big 12 will be in a stronger position to take better candidates than it can now. My 14 are: all the current Big 12 (including Missouri), BYU, TCU, Colorado State, Tulane, and Louisville.


Palin is not running for President

Too bad. I will vote for anyone but Obama but count me out of the campaign season otherwise.