The Big 12 is painting itself into a corner.
Its reported list of expansion finalists has devolved into a study of, “Which one of these doesn’t belong?” Rice Owls , with an enrollment of less than 7,000, is supposedly on the same footing with UCF Knights , which has the largest enrollment in the country at 51,000.
The list also reportedly includes a military academy ( Air Force Falcons ), Mormon flagship (BYU) and the land-grant university from the state of Connecticut (UConn).
What little we know about the qualifications to join the Big 12 — “somebody on an upward trend,” according to commissioner Bob Bowlsby — is just ambiguous enough to further complicate the process.
Temple Owls is out? Wait, who knew it was in?
At this point in the proceedings, the Big 12 needs to invite Houston Cougars and Brigham Young Cougars or explain why not. Either that or don’t expand at all because little else makes sense.
In that case, the Big 12 may have to hold a press conference to address what didn’t happen.
BYU is clearly the best football option with a brand, a budget and a history (1984 national championship). Houston has the endorsement of the state governor and lieutenant governor, as well as the University of Texas Longhorns president and chancellor.
We may look back on Saturday as the day the Cougars both played their way into the Big 12 and the College Football Playoff. It wasn’t just the result against Oklahoma Sooners , it was the eventual dismantling of the Sooners in front of a sold-out crowd.
At several positions, the Cougars had better athletes. Blue-chip defensive tackle Ed Oliver is the first five-star prospect to ever sign with a Group of Five school.
Big 12 recruiting is slipping in Texas. The Oliver signing would suggest it certainly isn’t slipping in Houston. The TV rating for the OU game was 50 percent higher than the highest-rated game in Houston market last season (Alabama-Texas A&M). It was 78 percent higher than the highest Big 12 game (Oklahoma-Texas).
Houston is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on facilities upgrades in athletics and across campus. The Houston Chronicle recently reported the school has been preparing for this moment for years, pitching itself to other conferences as well.
The conquering of OU doubled as an elaborate slideshow presentation for the Big 12 presidents. How do you not take the Cougars at the moment?
The Austin American-Statesman quoted CBS’s Jim Nantz, a Houston grad, as saying, “Can’t we bolster the Big 12? I think it’d be a lock.”
If all of it seems to be somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction, consider the following:
- TCU Horned Frogs had won three conference titles and a BCS bowl (2010 Rose) in the six years prior to joining the Big 12. If Houston takes the American Athletic Conference this season, as projected, it will have won two. It already has a New Year’s Six bowl win (2016 Peach).
- In its last round of expansion, the Big 12 already made the dubious choice of West Virginia Mountaineers over Louisville Cardinals .
In other words, the Big 12 can’t made the same “mistake” twice. The process is already turning into a waste of time for the likes of Rice, Southern Methodist Mustangs and Tulane Green Wave . Do any of those have a real chance?
One source inside the conference said those high academic schools were included on the finalists list to appease some Big 12 presidents.
Another source from a school trying to make the cut said the process is “bizarre in every way.”
A source close to the situation said it was impossible to handicap expansion at the moment. The league standing pat remains a distinct possibility.
There are complications to any expansion. The Big 12 presidents would have to approve BYU over concerns voiced by the LGBT community. There are powerful University of Texas folks who still look down their noses at Houston, an old Southwest Conference foe.
It has been suggested the ambiguity of the process has confused not only the participants but also the public. In the same sentence back in July, Oklahoma president David Boren said expansion is “not a definite decision” but the board would “very seriously consider this possibility.”
The next key date is Oct 16-17 when the Big 12 presidents will meet. If they don’t add Houston and BYU then, the CEOs may have to hold a presser addressing what didn’t happen.
More Jim Harbaugh shenanigans: The Football Writers Association of America has voiced its concern to Michigan Wolverines over the apparent end of a long-standing college football tradition.
On Saturday in the Michigan press box, media members in attendance were not given a “flip card,” a document distributed for decades identifying the depth chart for both teams. Harbaugh had said earlier in the week he will not release a depth chart.
Flip cards are considered a professional courtesy for both the media and the opponent. They help the media accurately describe accounts of the game — essentially publicizing the program. Last week’s opponent, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors , did release a two-deep in its notes, as does basically every program in the country.
Never mind the media, this practice at least attempts to deceive the opponent. Let’s hope for the sake of free and open flow of information this move doesn’t become as commonplace as the closed lockerrom.
If Harbaugh continues to get his way, imagine what sort of information won’t be shared during Ohio State Buckeyes week.
It’s impossible to underplay Nick Chubb ‘s accomplishment: Eleven months after shredding his knee, Georgia Bulldogs ‘s inspirational tailback not only played against North Carolina Tar Heels , he carried 32 times on a knee underwent major surgery to repair three ligaments and cartilage.
“It was bad, never been in that position,” Chubb told reporters. “I was down, a lot of pain. I could have done two things — either laid down and never got up or what I did, and pushed myself.”
Those 32 carries were the most by a Power Five back in Week 1 and third-most nationally. Here’s hoping Chubb finishes more like Herschel Walker than Marcus Lattimore.
Two-loss team in the CFP? With four teams in the top 11 losing in Week 1, perhaps this is a possibility. Essentially, LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee Volunteers and Ole Miss have to win out to have a chance. While few were giving the Vols and Rebels a chance, when the Tigers and Sooners lost it marked the first time two top five teams were defeated in Week 1 since 1972.
Quandary for a big bowl: You better believe Cotton Bowl folks have taken notice of Houston’s possible ascension into the CFP. The Cotton has to take the designated Group of Five qualifier this year for its New Year’s Six game. If Houston qualifies for the CFP, that means the Group of Five gets no automatic qualifier. Cotton Bowl folks won’t say it, but that increases the likelihood of better attendance and notoriety for the game with two Power Five schools.
Clay Helton critics have quickly emerged: USC’s “new” coach is now 6-5 counting his time as an interim coach going back to 2013. Helton is beginning his first season as full-time coach now with a three-game losing streak. The Trojans have been outscored by a combined 120-49 against Stanford Cardinal (2015 Pac-12 championship game), Wisconsin Badgers (Holiday Bowl) and Alabama Crimson Tide (Saturday).
The top coaching free agent: Art Briles has retained super agent Jimmy Sexton, CBS Sports confirmed. That presents an interesting dynamic. It’s hard to find an anyone in FBS who believes Briles will get a job in the highest level of college football following the Baylor Bears scandal. But with Sexton pulling the strings, does that create a college opening for Briles that otherwise wouldn’t be there? All it takes is one president to say “yes.”
And the rest: Twenty-nine new coaches in FBS this season; their combined record in Week 1 was 20-9. Best win? Georgia’s Kirby Smart getting by a ranked North Carolina. Worst loss: Matt Campbell at Iowa State Cyclones losing his opener to FCS Northern Iowa … That defensive two-pointer by Notre Dame Fighting Irish against Texas? Some perspective: There were only five such plays all of last season. Since 2013, there have been a total of 15 … The season scoring record has been broken several times in the last few years. That includes last year’s all-time record of 29.4 points per game. Be forewarned: The average for Week 1 was 32.6 points … Week 2 letdown: After the best opening week ever, there are exactly no games between ranked teams this week in FBS play
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Inside College Football: Big 12 will have to explain if it doesn’t add BYU, Houston