Brett McMurphy and The Chronicle are both reporting the Big 12 has revisited the expansion topic, and it seems that the two schools brought up most often are schools that TCU is pretty familiar with from our days of conference jumping- BYU and Louisville. The Big 12 re-expanding to 12 is potentially a good thing for TCU for several reasons: A Big 12 championship means more revenue (and the site would most likely be in Jerryworld, a convenient drive for TCU fans if we make the game, the added stability of two more teams would increase the likelihood that Texas (and as a consequence, Tech, 0U and State) will stick around and keep the Big 12 together for the foreseeable future. The downside for TCU (and if it does come to pass, it is a very sizable downside) is that this will likely mean the reprise of the absolutely murderous Big 12 South- except with TCU in the place of Texas A&M (a definite upgrade). There is certainly some argument that being in what would then become the toughest division in football has an upside- after all, the second best team in the current best division in football was just awarded the BNC (Bogus National Championship), but the SEC has one thing that the likely Big 12 does not have (no, not Texas A&M, I'm talking about things other conferences actually want), which is name recognition and a national power in the other division. Florida is down at the moment, but is indisputably one of the top five jobs in college football, and Georgia and Tennessee are both programs that could easily anchor a weaker division in any other conference- while the only team in the hypothetical Big 12 North redux to sniff a national title is BYU- which is by no one's definition a Nebraska-esque name to anchor a division. What is the Big 12 to do to ensure competitive balance, then? The Big Ten laid the blueprint for it just this past year- split your two national brands into different divisions, even if it doesn't make geographical sense.
By kicking Oklahoma (and to keep as many rivalries as possible intact, Okie State) up into the North and making the Red River Shootout a protected cross division game (as the Big Ten did with Michigan/Ohio State), the Big 12 would give itself not only more competitive balance (and give the non-Texas/0U programs in the South a better chance at the title game) but would also be a significant boon to the conference in negotiating a price for its title game. It's predicted that the mere possibility of a Michigan/Ohio State rematch in the Big Ten title game added a million dollars a year to that games television rights, and by giving networks a possible Texas/0U part two the Big 12 would stand to cash in significantly from the networks as well. This subject might be a sore spot for Longhorn and Sooner supporters, but to those fanbases I have a response: 45-35. Longhorn fans would not tie for the division title with their hated rivals to the North, while beating them head to head, and end up getting shafted out of a title game opportunity. Unlike the Big Ten's premier rivalry (which is played on the last week of the regular season) the Big 12's superpowers play in October, giving both teams ample opportunity to right their place in the rankings and give a winner-takes-all second showdown a huge boost in sending a Big 12 team to the national championship game (or hopefully, playoffs). I'd propose Big 12 divisions like so:
Or if you want to substitute your preferred expansion candidate (USF? Cincinnati? UNT?) for BYU or Louisville (or kick out Baylor) it doesn't make much difference. In this example what remains of the Big Eight and SWC have their rivalries intact- and giving Oklahoma State a protected rival of either TCU or Tech ensures that the Cowboys don't revolt as a result of being more shut out of Texas exposure in recruiting. In the summer of 2011 Texas and 0U came together to save the Big 12 conference, but should the conference build back up to 12 in the future the best way for them to save the conference again is separating.