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Big 12 expansion: "We could be proactive," says commissioner

The subject of expansion is a pressing one for the Big 12 with realignment still happening around college football.


For the Big 12 conference, there's a significant danger of being left behind if the league chooses to sit on the sidelines of conference realignment for too long -- the ACC is the last conference with schools worth poaching, and if Florida St. or Clemson or Virginia Tech end up in the SEC, or some combination of those schools, all the best options could be off the table.

In that spirit, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said on Wednesday at the start of the NCAA convention that the conference is looking into options and "could be proactive" in that regard moving forward, though there obviously isn't a lot of impetus with the league at this point because all the principals have not gotten together to talk about it since the latest round of realignment further weakened the Big East.

Any movement would have include some consensus on how big to get -- whether to add two teams to get to 12 and hold a championship game again or go all the way to 16 and rarely play the teams in the other division. At this point, 16 would see to be the endgame for many conferences, even if the SEC and the Big 10 are still short of that number. That much still hasn't changed.

To a certain extent, it may be public posturing, but based on all of his comments so far, and the way that he chooses to phrase them, it seems that Bowlsby is not a commissioner intent to come into the Big 12 and immediately make changes, even though someone with a larger ego might want to make their mark on the league and cement their legacy by making big changes.

Instead, Bowlsby seems like a rather cautious type, speaking of a "clear mandate" for change, one supported by a "clear set of data" rather than "intuition."

The sense is that he would rather not make some moves just to make some moves and try to keep up with everyone else. Here's the money quote:

We continue to watch the landscape. Until we're persuaded that larger is better, we feel pretty good about right where we are. Part of what we're going to do during the meetings ... is talk about what the advantages are of getting bigger and what the disadvantages are.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is having to cut the incoming revenue into ever-smaller pieces with the addition of two, four, or six schools, though it's possible the money from the playoff system could help offset that, but also equally as possible that the member institutions would rather stay small and split the playoff revenue among 10 teams.

The advantages? Well, not risking falling behind and getting stuck with some mediocre schools is things end up coalescing into four 16-team superconferences -- nothing new there, really.

There's also the chance that Bowlsby could ask the NCAA to vote on rule changes allowing conferences with less than 12 members to hold a championship while at the NCAA convention this week. The former Stanford athletic director also called the current stage of athletics a period of "deregulation," one that has forced a lot of re-thinking of the college football, and college athletics, paradigm. The number of teams necessary for a title game could be one of those things that comes under scrutiny and eventually changes, after all, why should a conference have to have two divisions to have a title game, when taking the two best teams of 10 probably ensures a more deserving champion?

The Big 12 athletic directors will meet at the end of the month and the league presidents some time thereafter. When those meetings go down, it will be interesting to see if the prevailing winds have changed in the league and might start pushing the cautious new commissioner down the road of expansion.