Given the underwhelming options, no surprise Big 12 stood pat

It’s humorous to see all the gloom-and-doom predictions for the Big 12 after the announcement Monday that the conference will not expand.

As though adding Houston and Cincinnati or Colorado State and Memphis or a couple of directional schools from Florida was going to save the conference.

The problem all along was that the pool of candidates was never that strong. ESPN and FOX television executives made it known to Big 12 officials, if they didn’t already know, that the league risked watering down its product.

“Bigger is not always better,” said Oklahoma president David Boren, chairman of the Big 12’s board of directors.

The Big 12 ranks fifth in a consensus of all the major computer ratings, trailing the SEC, Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten. Yes, it’s a down year for the Big 12 in football. Even so, the Big 12 has the same amount of unbeatens (Baylor and West Virginia) as the SEC (Alabama and Texas A&M) and one more than the ACC (Clemson) and Pac-12 (Washington).

Let’s face it, the Big 12 is never going to be the SEC. Never. But despite its smallish 10-school lineup, the Big 12 has been ranked as high as No. 2 this decade, and the league’s five-year computer average puts it at No. 3. And that’s with a diminished product here on the Forty Acres.

Of the many rumored candidates for expansion, only Houston, 11th in the polls and 12th in the consensus computer ratings, would do much to enhance the league’s numbers. And what happens to the Cougars if/when Tom Herman leaves?

Some other Big 12 wannabes have good records — South Florida is 6-1, Memphis 5-1 — but neither is ranked and each came up well short in a major Power Five test. The Bulls were pounded 55-35 by Florida State; the Tigers lost 48-28 to Ole Miss. South Florida is 27th in the consensus computer ratings, Memphis 32nd.

Put these guys up against a Big 12 round-robin schedule, and most of them are probably .500 teams.

Beyond the records, there is one school that could have significantly added to the Big 12’s profile: BYU. The Cougars boast a national fan base, great facilities, strong academic standing, a scenic location and a history of success, but once the league cooled on the Cougars’ candidacy, nobody else brought that much to the table except perhaps Houston. Yet how badly does the Big 12 need a fifth Texas school?

Now we’re talking a whole different game if, say, Florida State and Clemson were available and interested. Or LSU and Arkansas. Arizona and Arizona State. Nebraska and Missouri. There are reports the Cornhuskers are disenchanted in the Big Ten. Maybe at the next opportunity, they’ll revisit Big 12 membership.

For now, unable to raid fellow Power Five leagues, the Big 12 might just be best as is.

And it’s naive to think Monday’s inaction will stoke the fire for Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 next decade when lucrative television contracts are up. Do you really think adding UH and UConn or UCF and USF will be enough to keep the Longhorns and Sooners on board?

Fat chance.

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