With TCU and Baylor each ranked among the top six of the College Football Playoff’s rankings heading into Championship Weekend, it looked as if the Big 12 had two strong candidates to clinch a playoff spot. As luck would have it, selection committee things behind closed doors happened, and the conference as a result was shut out of the CFP in favor of Big Ten champion Ohio State. Committee chairman Jeff Long hinted on Sunday that the fact that Ohio State had played and convincingly won a conference championship game gave the Buckeyes a competitive advantage over the Horned Frogs and Bears, the Big 12’s co-champs (for those of you wondering, the 10-team Big 12 is not allowed to hold a championship game because of its conference size). In response to Long’s comments, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “It’s clear we were penalized for not having a championship game… That will cause us to go back to the drawing board a little bit.”
Going back to the drawing board could mean that the Big 12 may consider expanding back to 12 schools to satisfy NCAA bylaws dictating conferences must have at least 12 teams to hold a championship game. With football clearly the driver in such a determination, let’s take a look at which schools as additions would also add serious value to Big 12 basketball, because that’s the side any of us on this microsite really care about.
The Likeliest Candidates:
- Memphis: According to a report from ESPN Nashville radio host Darren McFarland, the Big 12 is interested in poaching Memphis and Cincinnati away from the American Athletic Conference in the upcoming offseason. We should probably take this claim with a tiny grain of salt. Had this rumor swirled around four years ago, most would have considered it to be more foolish than unrealistic, but now, given the state of conference realignment, there could be something to this. Although Memphis has been up and down in football, Memphis basketball history runs deep and their loyal fans fill up FedEx Forum with regularity. The city is also a hotbed for some of the best basketball talent in the country. A statement from one man, though, sticks out more than any other. Noted Oklahoma State enthusiast/booster T. Boone Pickens gave an interview to the Austin-American Statesman a few weeks ago and spoke on possible expansion: “Memphis wants in it [the Big 12],” Pickens said. “I was vocal back when we were expanding that we needed to take TCU, and Texas didn’t want TCU in. […] TCU deserves to be in the conference. It’s an old Southwest Conference school.” Could Pickens be the most powerful man in the Big 12? He wanted TCU in the Big 12, Texas didn’t want TCU, and here we are in present day with TCU in the Big 12. Who’s to say that he can’t make it happen for Memphis? Plus, it seems like Memphis and Oklahoma State are committed to playing in hoops annually anyway.