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The Answer for the Big 12: Arkansas

A look at the school that should be a priority if expansion is the route the Big 12 chooses.

Arkansas to the Big 12 makes too much sense for it not to be at least looked at.
Arkansas to the Big 12 makes too much sense for it not to be at least looked at.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2010 when conference realignment went all haywire, there was some subtle flirting and rumors of Arkansas to the Big 12 that never ended up happening, obviously. Well, given the current split within the conference on if they should expand or not, Arkansas presents a perfect solution. All of the Big 12 coaches have recently weighed in on the topic, and although many were indifferent several were in support of it most notable Bob Stoops, and Bill Snyder. Of those against, Gary Patterson was the most outspoken saying he's "already done the east coast west coast thing."

Arkansas, though, stands alone in that it appears the Big 12, if they expand, is unlikely to add another Texas school, making the Razorbacks the next best thing. They are a reasonable distance to all schools in the conference, not causing some of the nightmares for traveling that a school like UCF would. So adding them would be relatively painless for travel (looking at you Patterson) as Fayetteville is in "Big 12 country"  and the Hogs also have history with some schools in the conference. Arkansas remains one of Texas's traditional rivals going back to when they were both members of the old Southwest Conference before bolting for the SEC.

The Southwest Conference also contained TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech so Arkansas is also very familiar with those schools. Although Oklahoma State and Arkansas weren't huge rivals during their brief time in the Southwest Conference, the two have played 46 times over the years and one could easily see a rivalry boil up between the two as they are only  separated by about 180 miles and OSU is actually a competent football team now unlike when they used to play so the match ups would be a lot of fun for both fan bases. In addition to a football team seemingly on the cusp of breaking back onto the scene nationally, Arkansas also boasts a perennial top 25 baseball program, and a basketball team that finally got back into the NCAA tournament and looks like a program on the rise after a few down years. Point being, unlike a BYU who would mainly bring football to the table, the Razorbacks are a well rounded school athletically.

It clearly makes sense for the Big 12 to add the Hogs, but does it make sense for Arkansas? Absolutely. Arkansas is in the SEC West, far and away the best division in college football right now regardless of conference, they could be enticed to NOT have to face LSU, Bama, Auburn, Ole Miss etc every year. In addition, the Big 12 poses a much lighter travel schedule for Arkansas as there are FIVE Big 12 schools (OSU, OU, TCU,KU,KSU) closer to Fayetteville than the CLOSEST SEC West school (Ole Miss.) Arkansas also is ahead in the all-time series against 5 Big 12 schools as opposed to only 3 schools in the SEC.

This move just makes too much sense for both sides for this not to happen or at least be heavily considered should the Big 12 expand. From both a geographic sense, as well as competitve standpoint both would benefit. The Big 12 would add a well rounded, geographically close university familiar with schools in the conference that just so happens to be a school with a stout football tradition. Arkansas would rid themselves of the meat grinder that is the SEC West, giving them a realistic shot at actually making it to big bowl games, and play in a conference that boasts nationally respected basketball unlike the SEC all the while not having to travel as far.

That would bring the Big 12 to 11 meaning you can add any of the other schools that have been rumored to be a potential target (BYU, Cincy, UCF, etc.) to finally have enough for divisions and a championship. I'd imagine the divisions looking something like this: Northern Division: Oklahoma St, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Kansas St, Iowa St. Southern Division: Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and whatever 12th school they add. Oklahoma or Arkansas could be moved to the southern one depending on which school they choose to add as the 12th. Personally I think they should put feelers out and see if Nebraska has any interest in returning. There are any number of solutions but I think they should start with a look at Arkansas, a school that would fit right in.

It's more of a business decision though, for Arkansas. More money and stability in SEC. Yes it would be better for their recruiting proximity but that's too much money and stability left on the table for a little more exposure in Texas when they are already getting plenty of big time recruits out of that state.

Arkansas may recruit as well if not better than OSU in Texas. Maybe not in quanity but in quality. Jonathan Williams (Allen, Texas), is the most notable this season.

It is something that is great on paper but the feasibility when considering the money that would be left on the table is insurmountable for Arkansas to leave the comfortable but difficult confines of the Southeastern Conference and the Western Division.