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Arkansas State, Air Force, Northern Illinois, San Diego State on Big 12’s expansion list, too

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Friday it was reported that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be conducting videoconferences with the 17 schools that have contacted the conference expressing interest in becoming a member of the league.  Of those 17, 14 schools were known.

Now we know the other three schools, as well as an 18th interested in membership.

As we had previously noted, San Diego State was believed to be one of the original 17 mentioned by ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy.  McMurphy confirmed SDSU is one of the now-18 that’ll state their case to the league, while also noting that the Sun Belt’s Arkansas State, Mountain West’s Air Force and MAC’s Northern Illinois will do so as well.

So, for those keeping score at home, below is a conference-by-conference breakdown of potential additions to the Big 12.

AMERICAN
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Houston
Memphis
SMU
Temple
Tulane
UCF
UConn
USF

INDEPENDENT
BYU

MAC
Northern Illinois

MOUNTAIN WEST
Air Force
Boise State
Colorado State
New Mexico
San Diego State

SUN BELT
Arkansas State

While 18 schools will be afforded the opportunity to stump for their inclusion, it’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  While it remains to be seen whether the Big 12 expands by two or four, McMurphy also reported that it’s “less and less likely” that current 10-team conference will expand by four.

It has previously been reported that the Big 12 would like to settle the expansion issue before the start of the upcoming season, although that appears, like adding four schools, less and less likely.  Instead, a decision might not be made until a board of directors meeting scheduled for October.

Report: Big 12 will talk to 17 schools, expanding by two more likely than four

WVU vs Marshall
Associated Press
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While no announcement is imminent, it appears there’s some additional clarity on the Big 12 expansion front.

First and foremost, ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy is reporting, it’s becoming what sources described as “less and less likely” that the Big 12 will expand to 14 from its current 10-school membership.  Instead, the conference likely either stand pat or add just two teams.  The latter move would allow the conference to split into two six-team divisions.

As for potential expansion candidates, McMurphy reports that commissioner Bob Bowlsby will conduct videoconferences with the 17 schools that have contacted the conference expressing interest in becoming a member of the league.  Those 17 schools include oft-mentioned suspects such as Boise State, Cincinnati, BYU, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Memphis, Tulane, UCF, UConn and USF.  Additionally, East Carolina, New Mexico, SMU and Temple are part of the large group looking for inclusion.

Only 14 of the 17 schools that will be a part of the videoconferences were listed by McMurphy.  It’s believed San Diego State is another of the 17.  Air Force, Fresno State and Hawaii have also been previously mentioned as possibilities.

It’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  The first one mentioned when it comes to presumptive front-runners will, however, have to overcome some negative attention some of its policies have received as of late.

It has previously been reported that the Big 12 would like to settle the expansion issue before the start of the upcoming season, although that appears, like adding four schools, less and less likely.  Instead, a decision might not be made until a board of directors meeting scheduled for October.

Houston the overwhelming favorite to repeat as AAC champs

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 05:  Head coach Tom Herman of the Houston Cougars raises the AAC Championship Trophy after defeating the  Temple Owls at TDECU Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 24-13.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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In what could be the final season of the AAC as we’ve known it, the media expects the same result as a year ago.

As the AAC  wraps up its Media Days Tuesday, the conference released its media poll and, to the surprise of no one, Houston is the overwhelming favorite to win its second consecutive league title.  Of the 30 voters, 27 of them tapped UH as the champs.   The only others receiving votes were USF (2) and Temple (1).

Not surprisingly, the Cougars were the unanimous choice to win the AAC West division.  Navy, with 128 points to UH’s 180, was a distant second in the division.

The East was a little more bunched up, with USF (15), Temple (9) and Cincinnati (6) all receiving first-place votes.

Houston, USF and Cincinnati have all been mentioned as potential candidates in the Big 12’s next round of expansion.  Others in the conference who are possibilities to bolt include UConn, East Carolina and UCF, predicted to finish fourth, fifth and , sixth, respectively, in the East, as well as Memphis and Tulane, third and sixth, respectively, in the West.

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Sports Business Journal: Big 12 expansion not sitting well with Fox, ESPN

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
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Could the Big 12’s expansion plans actually hurt its relationship with college football’s most important TV partners?

John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reported Monday morning that, actually, the answer to that question could be yes.

Ourand reports ESPN and Fox are non-plussed with the thought of the 10-team conference adding the likes of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis and/or UConn, programs which would “water down the Big 12 and make it less valuable.”

ESPN and Fox would owe the Big 12 a combined $20 million per team added to the conference — so $40 million for two teams or $80 million for four teams. The Big 12’s TV deal with both networks runs through 2024-2025.

Read Ourand’s full story here.

The question now becomes for the Big 12: Is the short-term financial windfall worth damaging its relationship with ESPN and Fox?

Both networks easily could walk away from renewing with the conference — or put in a lowball offer —  after 2025 if they feel the quality of play decreased because of, for example, Houston and Cincinnati’s presence. That’s a significant risk for Bob Bowlsby and the Big 12 to take, especially without the safety net of a conference network (as the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will all have by 2019).

But nine years is a long time in today’s media landscape. If the TV rights bubble is already beginning to burst, what will rights payouts look like in 2025? Will cable TV still hold a certain level of importance with alternative offerings proliferating over the the last few years? Will ESPN and Fox even be the best destinations for distributing the Big 12’s product?

In a sense, it’s a risk either way. The Big 12 may very well damage beyond repair its relationship with ESPN and Fox over expansion, but it also may not matter when those networks’ contracts are up. But in the short term, it’ll be fascinating to see how — or if — ESPN and Fox are able to influence the Big 12’s expansion efforts, given that, to paraphrase the Wu-Tang Clan, C.R.E.A.C.F. (Cash Rules Everything Around College Football).

 

Justin Timberlake, Larry the Cable Guy stump for Big 12 candidacies of Memphis, UCF

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 07:  Actor/singer Justin Timberlake watches the game between the Memphis Tigers and the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2008 NCAA Men's National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 7, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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As you no doubt know by now, the Big 12 announced earlier this month that the conference will expand.  Wednesday night, a pair of entertainment heavyweights threw their celebrity behind two of the potential candidates.

A handful of teams have been mentioned as possibilities, from Houston to UConn to USF to BYU to Tulane to East Carolina to Cincinnati to Colorado State to Boise State.  Additionally, Memphis and UCF have been heavily speculated on for months, and they’re the two programs that have seen Memphis native Justin Timberlake and Nebraska fan Larry the Cable Guy, respectively, stumping for them within a couple of hours of each other.

It’s highly, highly doubtful that the celebrities throwing their support behind their favorites will have any impact whatsoever on the process or the Big 12’s ultimate decision. Still, it certainly can’t hurt in the court of public opinion.