Big 12 Conference Reopens Expansion Talk

Further Big 12 expansion is “very possible,” two high-ranking sources told The Chronicle. An expansion committee, dormant for months after the conference accepted West Virginia and TCU into league play, will meet today to discuss its options.

While conference officials stressed that no decision is imminent–and there is some opposition to moving beyond the current 10 member institutions–two schools are at the top of the list, should the league make a move.

Louisville, which the Big 12 considered adding last year, is the likeliest choice, according to people with knowledge of the talks. And Brigham Young, another university the conference has considered, continues to be a possible target. One official said the league was open to adding just one institution. “The Big Ten made 11 work for a number of years,” the source told The Chronicle.

Adding two schools would allow for a conference championship in football, but Chuck Neinas, the conference’s commissioner, said Big 12 programs had not shown much enthusiasm for a title game.

Since October, when the league announced its latest additions, it has not reached out to any colleges, Neinas said, but several institutions have made their case to be added.

“We’re definitely committed to 10 in the foreseeable future,” he said. “How that plays out, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Other Big 12 leaders are cautious when describing how soon a move might happen.

“I don’t want to send the message, ‘Oh, they’re getting ready to expand,’” said Joseph R. Castiglione, the Oklahoma athletic director and a member of the expansion committee. “But you’d be naïve to think there’s not instability still in our business.

“From a transition standpoint, we’re in position now to deal with the reality of our world,” he said. “We’re going to make some evaluations and reach the best conclusion that helps us stabilize our long-term future.”

The four-person expansion committee­—which is chaired by V. Burns Hargis, Oklahoma State’s president, and includes Kirk H. Schulz, president of Kansas State, and DeLoss Dodds, the athletic director at Texas—plans to make a report to the Big 12 Conference’s Board of Directors next week.

That report will be an update on where the committee believes things should go next, Hargis said. “If there are two schools that we feel meet our various criteria—good academic institutions with good athletic programs and strong fan bases—and that our television network partners think are additive to our conference, it’s something we’re clearly going to consider.”

He added, however, that there is no rush to decide: “It’s a very strong conference, and we’re very comfortable with the new members,” he said. “Whether we go beyond that is a big and important question that requires a very deliberative approach.”

For more on the story, check out our full report.

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