The perpetual offseason conversation surrounding conference realignment continues with the latest morsel dropping that the Big 12 should make a decision on expansion by this summer.
At first, the desire to hold a championship game seemed to be the driving factor behind Big 12 realignment possibilities. But the NCAA approved a deregulation proposal which allowed the conference to stage a championship game with 10 members instead of 12 as the rules originally required. Briefly, it appeared as though the expansion conversation died with that decision.
Later on, however, Oklahoma's president Dave Boren spoke out about the championship game being just a piece of the puzzle. The Big 12 had fallen behind the other top-tier power conferences, and Boren believed that they needed to seriously look into a television network and expanding to 12 members for reasons beyond the championship game- such as moving into new markets and helping new member West Virginia with its geographic isolation. He also added that other presidents in the conference were on his side.
The situation was expected to further clear itself up in early-February as the conference leadership convened for its annual meetings. The only outcome from those, however, was that they would continue to explore the possibility.
On Tuesday, the Oklahoman's Barry Tramel revealed that a vague, tentative timeline has been set while the consultants and business experts compile all of the relevant info. Boren's words were once again featured prominently in this report:
"We've sort of said to ourselves, come this summer, we're going to have to finally make a decision about what we do. We cannot indefinitely postpone decisions. That's what I had gotten frustrated about. I thought we were spinning our wheels...
"I think a consensus is forming around these three reforms, (expansion, conference championship game, television network)"
Boren went on to share a few specifics about their approach:
"I think people are being very sincere about trying to look at the figures and the facts... what are their academics? What's their research base? How well do they fit our academic profile? How well do they fit our fan base profile? How many dollars in their market do they bring to the table? We're looking at all that. In terms of the network and those dollars, we're looking with our TV consultants to tell us."
UConn continues to factor heavily in discussions of possible candidates for expansion. Its academic prowess (and growth), combined with athletic success, including elite status in the second and third-highest profile college sports, upward trajectory of the football program, and unique hold across the New York City and Boston markets in addition to complete ownership of the 30th-ranked Hartford/New Haven TV market (ahead of cities such as Columbus, San Antonio, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati), make UConn an attractive expansion partner even if the fit isn't perfect.