Well, it was fun while it lasted. Or maybe it isn't over?
The Big 12, the autonomous and wealthy conference potentially holding UConn's ticket out of the American, is hardly an ideal fit but was definitely considering UConn in the event it would have to expand. It was nice to think about a safe landing spot for Husky athletics involving regular basketball games with the likes of Kansas and our old friends at West Virginia, and football games with longtime powers Texas and Oklahoma.
The NCAA seemingly kiboshed those dreams as the 10 conference leaders voted (with the "power five" holding double votes because screw you) to allow the Big 12 to maintain its 10-team round-robin format and still hold a championship game.
All hope is not dead, however, as there are power players in the Big 12 who believe expansion should still on the table, most notably at Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Oklahoma President David Boren had this to say after the NCAA vote:
"The Big 12 is disadvantaged when compared to the other conferences in three ways. We do not have at least twelve members, we do not have a conference network, and we do not have a championship game. I think that all three of these disadvantages need to be addressed at the same time. Addressing only one without addressing all three will not be adequate to improve the strength of the conference,"
Boren also would prefer that the Longhorn Network not exist, favoring the formation of a Big 12 TV network, which significantly enhances UConn's value proposition to the conference.
The Longhorn Network has long been a thorn in the side for the other schools in the conference, and was a major impetus for the recent departures from the Big 12. Right now, with Texas football and basketball--not to mention the cable industry--on a downswing, the network has not been particularly successful. Moreover, the leadership in Austin has completely turned over so it's not impossible that Texas may make a concession in order to keep the conference intact.
Boren went on a bit of a publicity tour to voice his displeasure, it seems, as he said in a different interview that Oklahoma has heard from other conferences and that he is not averse to entertaining those overtures. He also dove further into his hopes for a Big 12 network and adding new members.
"We have been, as a group, looking at expansion, discussing expansion, and we have had outside consultants helping us look at what schools are the possible best fit. So there are more than two out there that could be a good fit. There may be six or seven, and we could pick from that group the right two. We have to be very careful...
"We'll look at the fan base, we'll look at the size of their programs, we'll look at the academics of the institutions. We'll look at them comprehensively as to which is the best fit. And also we'll consider geography to a certain degree."
West Virginia president Gordon Gee is also a major proponent of expansion, as the conference staying put does nothing to help with his school's geographic isolation from the rest of the conference.
The Big 12 will be meeting February 4-5, and it appears Boren and Gee are not alone in their fight.
"There are three or four other schools, in particular, that ... feel as strongly as I do about getting something like this done," Doren said in the Tulsa World article. "We have some very strong allies."