During the last two days of meetings between Big 12 athletics directors, conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby offered up a study in equivocation in his discussions with members of the media on any subjects of substance. The man is a true marvel when it comes to sticking to non-commital talking points and crafting milquetoast sound bites.
Although little came from the meetings in the way of real news or forward progress, I do have a few general thoughts on what we did hear. Note that when talking about expansion, the issues tend to look different depending on the criteria you're using to evaluate them. What could be a plus in terms of postseason positioning could be a negative for the fan experience, for instance. (Which bites the big one, by the way.)
*Nobody knows anything when it comes to predicting the future.
It comes off as a weak excuse for standing pat, but Bowlsby is correct in his assertion that we lack compelling evidence about the benefits of expanding the conference. However, that begs the question of what kind of evidence he and the schools want. Bowlsby didn't give many clues as to what actually constitutes a legitimate argument in favor of expansion or against it.
About the only thing we do know is that Bowlsby expects any new conference member to generate at least $26 million in additional annual income. That seemingly limits potential expansion targets to a select fraternity – say, Florida State.
*Nobody knows anything about the playoff, either.
From the standpoint of access to the new four-team playoff, we really don't know how the selection committee will value different criteria. Will the committee members view teams from a conference that doesn't have a championship game less favorably than one that does? In the event of a tie in the conference standings – as was the case this year with Oklahoma and Kansas State – would the lack of a clear-cut champ factor into consideration?
Theoretically, the round-robin schedule should help boost the Big 12's strength of schedule, but that would depend on the selection committee's ratings metric. When SI.com did its mock playoff selection simulation in late November, Kansas State's presumed SOS advantage over Alabama and Oregon didn't make much difference in the mind of that group.
*The Big 12 doesn't have the hand to act as an aggressor.
Truthfully, any potential targets for acquisition in the ACC probably see leaving for the Big 12 as Plan D. The three more preferable options: some ordering of an invitation to the SEC, an invitation to the Big 10 and a stable ACC.
In other words, even if the Big 12 was gung ho about adding more schools, it is in a holding pattern until the SEC and B1G make their intentions known. After the public embarrassment of DeLoss Dodds' failed entreaties towards Notre Dame, staying mum may actually help the conference save face should Jim Delany or Mike Slive opt to poach FSU or any other school on the Big 12 radar. (You can also ask David Boren how it felt to get stoned by the Pac-12 a couple years back.)
*The "alliance" with the ACC sounds like a logistical nightmare.
How are you proposing to match up 10 teams from the Big 12 with 14 from the ACC for scheduling purposes? What happens to existing scheduling agreements, such as Oklahoma's upcoming series with LSU and Ohio State?
*What is the point of an alliance, anyway?
As a fan, I'm all for increasing the number of good match-ups every season, and an alliance might achieve that. (Of course, as I mentioned, aggressive scheduling has never been an issue for OU.)
Perversely, from a strategic standpoint, I'd argue that the Big 12 actually needs to dilute scheduling more than enhance it. With the round robin adding a guaranteed extra conference loss to the resumes of half the teams, they need more non-conference cupcakes to keep up from a perception standpoint with teams from conferences that are only playing eight league games. (I agree that it sucks, but you can thank the SEC.)
If the argument is that an alliance would help both leagues gain visibility for recruiting in the other's footprint... please. A kid from Miami will be more likely to go to Kansas State because he might play a game on the East Coast at some point? Color me skeptical.