With Texas A&M essentially out the door, the Big 12 is clearly at a crossroads. Though a 9 team conference would have worked even 5-10 years ago, now it is not sustainable in a world of 12+ team conferences. As we've read, the Big 12 seems likely to pursue expansion. With that in mind, I thought I'd offer what I think is likely to happen in the short term, and then 3 or 4 choices the Big 12 could make the long term, and see what people thought.
This assumes, by the way, that Mizzou -- nor any other school -- does not leave the Big 12.
First of all, there are indications that an offer has already been extended to BYU, and I believe they'll accept it. While some have said BYU may like it's independence, they would have not left the Mountain West had Utah and TCU stayed,, as the Mountain West was head toward AQ territory. This would get them into the BCS and the worst thing that happens is they would go independent again. The only pissed off entity might be the West Coast Conference, which has all of BYU's sports outside of football.
As for the quality of their program, BYU's attendance, history, and TV reach is impressive enough to honesty fit right in the middle of the Big 12. Utah is a growing state that is similar in Iowa, Kansas and former Big 12 state Nebraska in size, and just slightly smaller than Oklahoma. SLC is a good market when you take into account Provo, Ogden, etc.
Plus, I think the Big 12 has to immediately respond to losing A&M by adding a good program, or they risk losing other teams as well. BYU stops the bleeding. And I think they say yes.
So, the Big 12 is immediately back at 10. Then what?
There are several options:
#1 - The first is to just stay at 10. With BYU, you're stable enough to stick at that number for at least a season, and there is no intense pressure that you must do something.
However, i think that the Big 12 powers-that-be may feel that going back to 12 may offer more stability, depending who they get -- which leads me to the second option.
#2 - Notre Dame and someone else. Now, some will toss this aside and say "no way" but I'm not quite ready to do that. I think it's extremely unlikely -- 10% is what I posted on Tigerboard -- but I don't think it's zero. If Notre Dame thinks the SEC is headed to 14 or 16 and that the B1G is headed soon after, then they might be drawn to move to the Big 12 and our flexible TV contract.
Let's assume for a second that Notre Dame does come. I believe that would open up the possibility of getting Louisville, which would be a good market with a decent football program and great basketball program. Remember, if Mizzou and OU stay in the Big 12 and don't go to the SEC,, and the SEC wants to add a 14th team, it's going to come from the ACC, Say that drops the ACC down to 11. It will want a replacement -- which could come from the Big East, which drops it to 8. It could be in this scenario that a team like Louisville may view the Big East as a sinking ship and gladly take an offer from the Big 12.
If Louisville said no, however, I think the next option would be Air Force, who I think would be an interesting choice. Competitive football program, respected institution, and you have a team in a state bordering the far-away BYU. However, I do think there is a chance Air Force says no because it sees itself as competitive in the Mountain West.
If Notre Dame does not come and you stil want to add two teams, you're at option 3:
#3 - Two of Air Force, SMU, TCU, Houston, Memphis, New Mexico, and Louisville. I don't think Louisville comes without Notre Dame (unless it sees the Big East as doomed), but the others obviously would. I think, in this scenario, the Big 12 would prefer Louisville ane Air Force. But, if Louisville said no, then I think it is Air Force and one of the others. How you rank the others depends on several factors. My gut tells me it's SMU, which is serious about rebuilding its football program and does have signs of life, though is a long way from being even with the rest of the Big 12. TCU I think comes if the Big 12 offers.
So, in essence, this is what I see as the choices, assuming BYU says yes.
1. BYU only.
2. BYU, Notre Dame, and Louisville.
3. BYU, Notre Dame, and Air Force
4. BYU, Air Force, and Louisville.
5. BYU, Air Force, and SMU/Houston/NM/TCU/Memphis
6. BYU, and two of SMU/Houston/NM/TCU/Memphis
Note, I think if BYU says no, the Big 12 is in serious trouble.
What's the most likely to occur? I'd say one of these two:
BYU only OR BYU, Air Force, and SMU.