The Big 12’s newest four schools aren’t even members, and commissioner Brett Yormark is already considering further expansion candidates.
Yormark said Wednesday at the University of Cincinnati that he wanted to add a team that has “national recognition” from “out west.” Cincinnati is one of four teams slated to join the Big 12 in 2023 along with BYU, UCF and Houston.
BYU is the only team among those four located west of the Central Time Zone and will be the only team in the Mountain Time Zone when it joins the conference.
“Well I don’t want to get into specifics and I appreciate the question.” Yormark said via the Athletic when asked about further expansion of the Big 12. “But obviously going out west is where I’d like to go, going into that fourth time zone. A program that has national recognition. One that competes at the highest level in basketball and football, supports the right things, is a good cultural fit. Because our alignment right now and the like-mindedness of all our member institutions is fantastic. It’s never been better. So I don’t want to compromise that and that’s extremely important to have the right cultural fit when you’re thinking about coming and being a part of what we’re building here.”
The Big 12 will be at 12 teams when the four newcomers arrive and Texas and Oklahoma leave for the SEC. That departure is set to take place in 2024, and the conference could end up playing the 2023 football season with 14 teams if the Longhorns and Sooners don’t leave early.
Would 14 be the right number for the Big 12 after all? Any obvious expansion candidates west of the Mississippi River would be teams from the Pac-12. The Pac-12 is set to lose UCLA and USC from the Big Ten in 2024 after their current television contracts expire. The conference has not announced new television contracts and those negotiations could depend on the stability of the conference.
So far, the 10 remaining teams in the Pac-12 have appeared to stand in solidarity to keep the conference together, as the Big Ten has not held any public prayers with other conference members. And commissioner George Kliavkoff even hinted at the expansion himself. When Yormark said the Big 12 was “open to business” about conference expansion earlier this summer, Kliavkoff responded that the Pac-12 hadn’t “decided whether we’re going to shop there or not.”
Is there a world where the Big 12 and Pac-12 could both expand without taking teams from the other conference? We’re not sure about that. Previous rounds of congressional realignment have made it clear that the national recognition Yormark mentions is a priority. And there aren’t many teams with national recognition that aren’t currently in Power Five conferences.
So it certainly seems like the best way for the Big 12 and Pac-12 to expand would be poaching teams from the other conference. Sure, they could each stand and keep some semblance of what we know as the Power Five still intact, but Yormark certainly doesn’t sound like a man who wants to keep his conference to 12 teams for the foreseeable future after he leaves. of OU and UT.