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Let’s Talk Expansion: An In-Depth Look at Big 12 Expansion Candidates

Take a deeper look at the frontrunners to join the Big 12.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Texas Tech Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The dust has settled after the Big 12 announced that the conference is formally exploring expansion. A number of schools have been rumored to be interested in joining. We took a look in June at potential expansion teams after news broke that the Big 12 would be splitting into two divisions, but it looks like we may have been a little off. According to ESPN, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis have emerged as front-runners.

We’ve profiled each of these four schools, and how they would fit in the Big 12. Let’s take a look.


BYU would bring a reputation of having gained success the right way, which is something the Big 12 could potentially view as a positive in wake of the Baylor fiasco. BYU has won a total of ten national championships across all sports, which would rank ahead of four current Big 12 teams.

As far as facilities go, BYU has what would be the largest basketball arena and third largest football stadium in the Big 12. BYU would be the only school outside of Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 to have won a national championship in football. In basketball, BYU has had recent success with 5 trips to the NCAA Tournament since 2010, including a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011. That team had National Player of the Year, Jimmer Fredette.

A key factor with BYU is that they are not apart of a conference currently and therefore have no buyout and no restrictions on when they could join.


The addition of Cincinnati from a basketball standpoint is a no-brainer. Cincinnati basketball ranks in the top 25 in all-time wins and winning percentage. They are also in the top ten in Final Four appearences and national championships. That’s a pretty big boost to the conference’s already glowing reputation on the hardwood.

Cincinnati football is not quite as historically successful as their basketball program, but as of late the Bearcats have been the best they have ever been. The Bearcats did not post a 10 win season from 1954-2006, but since 2006 they have won 10 games five times and have won five conference championships.

Facilities are one aspect where Cincinnati is not quite on par with the current Big 12 membership. Nippert Stadium, home to the Bearcats’ football team, would rank last in capacity in the Big 12. As for basketball, Fifth Third Arena would rank 7th in capacity in the Big 12.

One important detail in the eyes of the Big 12 has to be location. Cincinnati would give West Virginia a rival, in terms of geography. Cincinnati would have to leave the American conference, which is not an overly simply task. As reported by Brett McMurphy of ESPN, teams wanting to leave the American are required to give the conference 27 months notice and must pay a 10 million dollar buyout.


Houston is coming off one of their best football seasons ever. The Cougars racked up a 13-1 season that ended with a 14 point victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl, but last season was no fluke. It was Houston’s second 13 win season in 5 years. Houston also ranks 20th in the country in most wins since 2006. That ranks behind only OU, TCU, and OSU in the Big 12. Houston has won 3 of their last 4 bowl games against Power 5 Conference teams, and with Tom Herman at the helm they look poised to join one of the "big boy" conferences soon.

The Big 12 seems to be a perfect fit for Houston, but rumor has it that some of the current members of the conference are not too high on the idea of adding another Texas school to the fold.

Houston basketball is far removed from the "Phi Slama Jama" days, as the Cougars have failed to make the NCAA tournament since 2010. Perhaps a move to the Big 12 can help bolster recruiting and help Houston gain national recognition on the court.

Like Cincinnati, Houston’s football stadium would rank last in seating among current Big 12 schools. Hofheinz Pavilion would rank second to last in seating among basketball arenas in the Big 12. With Houston also being a member of the American conference they would have to go through the same procedure as Cincinnati would to leave the conference.


Since their run of four straight 30 win seasons under John Calipari from 2005-2009, the Tigers have not been past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps the hiring of Tubby Smith will bring new life to the program, but basketball is no longer a top selling point for Memphis to join a bigger conference.

With only three winning seasons in the past 10 years, Memphis football does not sound like a great selling point either on paper. The good news is that two of those three winning seasons have come in the past two seasons as Memphis football is 19-6 in the past two years under Justin Fuente. Enter bad news: Justin Fuente is gone to greener pastures at Virginia Tech. Memphis has talent on the roster but with the departure of Fuente and star QB Paxton Lynch, the state of Memphis football is up in the air.

As far as facilities go, Memphis is absolutly up to par with the Big 12. Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium would be in the middle of the pack in terms of seating and like BYU, Memphis’ basketball arena would be the largest in the Big 12. Memphis makes sense geographically as it puts a Big 12 team in between West Virginia and the rest of the conference. Like the previous two schools, Memphis is also currently a member of the American conference.

Which one of these schools would you most like to see the Big 12 add to the conference?