It's a WVU weekend off and given that I am one of the fans prone to panic, I have given up on this season. Sorry, it's my nature. Imagine how miserable is my wife of 25 years; she's witnessed my manic-depression for a quarter of a century.
So, I’ve started looking to next season and beyond. This week that energy has been focused on reigniting BIG 12 Conference expansion talk, and largely because of Memphis’ convincing win over Ole Miss last weekend. Many "Don’t Expand the BIG 12 too Quickly" pundits have been saying that we can take our time and develop as/when we "have to." Well, The American Athletic Conference may not let us be that patient. And if the BIG 12 doesn't be more proactive in matching the number of teams to the digits on our conference logo, we may end up even further behind.
Six weeks into the season, WVU is 3-3. Three different AAC teams are 6-0 and ranked in the Top 25: Memphis, Houston and Temple. Cincinnati, whom I have always thought would be a great addition because of their proximity to us and their Men’s Basketball program, is 0-2 in AAC play but played BYU tough and beat Miami. The two Florida teams (who would seem to have an AAC recruiting advantage in the Sunshine State) are middling USF and conference bottom dweller UCF.
So, it seems to me at this stage that it would be geographically advantageous for WVU if the BIG 12 added Memphis. Obviously on the come in football with facility upgrades in the works. It would also help all of us make inroads into SEC country and bring another level of difficult to the already powerful BIG 12 basketball league. Memphis is a great city for alumni travel to away games and a culturally significant town to that entire region.
As for Temple, they are too far outside the conference footprint (the BIG 12 won’t go further east than Morgantown). As for Houston, the other four Texas teams (UT, TTU, TCU and Baylor) would never allow their recruiting base to be further impacted by adding a sixth POWER FIVE CONFERENCE team to the Lone Star State (Texas A & M is the fifth).
That leaves us with Cincinnati. Cincinnati is a terrific sports town and the BIG 12 dollars would enable the Bearcat program (which has incredible branding…bad ass helmets!) to make needed facility upgrades. A BIG 12 team in Ohio would help the UC take a more prominent role in the city where the Reds and Bengals fans are looking for a really thrilling third option. Plus, Cincinnati basketball would make the BIG 12 Basketball Tournament THE premier basketball tournament in the country.
How would the Divisions align? In my perfect world we would do so NORTH and SOUTH, which would make our side of the BIG 12 football conference easier for travel and (let's be honest) just plain easier.
- BIG 12 NORTH: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, West Virginia
- BIG 12 SOUTH: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech