Big 12 expansion, the topic which seemed to be on ice just ten days ago, exploded back onto the scene in a big way last week with an announcement from commissioner Bob Bowlsby and chairman David Boren that the wheels were in motion for the conference to add to its membership.
Since then, we have seen shameless angling, confident posturing, and everything in between. In case you have been living under a rock, or simply uninterested in following this saga like a hawk but still care, let's walk through what has gone down.
Houston Gaining Unexpected Support
The first major development was the endorsement of the University of Houston as an expansion candidate by the president of the University of Texas, and later by Texas Tech University. Per the linked article, Houston also has the support of the governor of Texas, the conference's football coaches, and the state university chancellor.
This was the first big monkey wrench thrown at the expansion crystal ball readers. Conventional thinking before this suggested that the Big 12 members in Texas would want to protect their turf, but they now seem to be very onboard with the idea of sharing, which seems weird. UT's endorsement, if it is indeed sincere, is a big one for Cougar fans.
While a school like Boise State may seem like a longshot candidate in the eyes of those following realignment closely, some even darker horses have thrown their hats into the ring in a very public way.
SMU's athletic director stated: "we feel like we belong," shortly before a press release from the school detailing grandiose plans for facility upgrades and some not-so-subtle notes about SMU's standing compared to other candidates for expansion, including dubious claims of having the second-largest athletics' budget outside of the "power five" and the second-largest football budget in the AAC. Because SMU is a private school those claims can't be fact-checked, but oh well.
Tulane, Colorado State, Memphis, and even James Madison have released public statements hoping to sway public perception in their favor. But no school has come even close to matching the thirst of East Carolina.
How many untrue statements can someone fit into two sentences? Let's ask ECU AD Jeff Compher:
Statement from East Carolina AD Jeff Compher regarding Big 12 membership: pic.twitter.com/sgrX6rlXNy— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) July 21, 2016
1. ECU doesn't deserve to be in the Big 12
2. ECU does not deliver all of North Carolina, a state with six other FBS programs
3. They have not been positioning themselves for anything besides a demotion back to C-USA. Football hasn't been able to adjust to the rigors of the AAC, leading to the firing of longtime head coach Ruffin McNeill. Its basketball is non-existent.
Undeterred, ECU kept swinging for the fences:
When SB Nation highlighted ECU's lack of shame, their official account responded with a reference so outdated, I'm wondering if Blockbuster is still around in Greenville, NC.
And they just kept plugging along, making outlandish claims...
Until they, too, secured an endorsement from a group with some serious political clout.
David Benedict and the UConn contingent should just throw the towel in. Nobody steps to the Greenville City Council.
Memphis has a better-than-terrible case for a bid from the Big 12. The school is geographically close-ish to Big 12 country, at least compared to the other candidates, and they have one other Ace up their sleeve. No, I'm not talking about that FedEx money. I mean Justin Timberlake. Yes, the lead actor from the hit film Just In Time was featured in a Memphis promotional packet. Timberlake
's publicist also tweeted out his support recently.
Not to be outdone, UCF, who shipped out its own asinine pitch deck earlier this summer, has also gained the support of a highly influential celebrity.
Git R Done indeed.
Aresco Addresses AAC Attrition
While most of the noise coming from national media outlets has been unfiltered garbage, there have been a few worthwhile nuggets to provide some clarity on where things may be heading.
CBS Sports is reporting that the Big 12 would like to make a decision before the start of college football season. With just about a month until kick-off, things will have to move fairly quickly for that to happen.
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco all but confirmed that change is imminent in an interview with Gridiron Now:
"I've been talking to the (athletic directors) and the president of the schools that might leave, and it looks like some of them will. We're talking to each other and trying to figure out the future. We expect everyone who leaves will leave on good terms."
Some of them will? Holy crap AAC Media day will be fun next week.
So where does this leave UConn? Athletic Director David Benedict is saying all the right things when asked, but luckily UConn's leadership has admirably chosen not to fire up the propaganda machine or "leak" info that might appease anxious fans. UConn's merits, alongside those of every other potential candidate, have been dissected to death since the start of this saga back in January. It should be enough, but who knows.
Hopefully it'll all be over soon.