The Big 12 is doing Big 12 things. What that means is being reactionary to an ever evolving landscape of college athletics. First the Big 12 was no longer looking to expand and a conference network was a dead issue. Then along comes the ACC, like a scorned ex-lover trying to one-up their former partner on social media, letting the world know during Big 12 media days that an ACC Network was in the works.
B12/Mon: "the Big 12 has no interest in expanding"— justin beckett (@beckett929) July 20, 2016
ACC/Mon: "ACC Network coming!"
B12/Tue: "send your resumes to email@example.com"
Now Big 12 Presidents, Athletic Directors and others high up in command aren’t known for their rational reactions to news. They often make drastic decisions without thinking the long-term consequences. The same can be said again. Given the information of the ACC Network, the Big 12 reacted with "Send us your resumes! We’re expanding".
Most people and pundits around the college football communities have long decided that BYU is a shoo-in for Big 12 Expansion. They are considered one of the top, if not the top, program among Group of 5 candidates and Independent teams.
Texas and its stranglehold on the Big 12 decision makers, has already thrown its weight behind the Houston Cougars.
I’m here to tell you that both teams, while extremely talented football programs, are the absolute wrong choice for the West Virginia Mountaineers. I’m not thinking about the Big 12. I’m not thinking about Texas. Or Oklahoma. Or any of the other schools. I’m thinking solely about West Virginia and what is best for the school I love and care about.
First off, lets assume the Big 12 only expands by two schools. So we aren’t taking into scenarios where BYU and Houston and Memphis and Cincinnati are in.
Next, let us also assume that the conference splits into two divisions with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in one. Texas will be in the opposite division in order to preserve "national powers" and prevent Texas and Oklahoma from determining a division in October. In the previous version of Big 12 divisions, both Oklahoma and Texas were in the Big 12 South, which dominated the headlines and power rankings. I expect the Big 12 to avoid that this time.
|Big 12 North||Big 12 South|
|West Virginia||Oklahoma State|
Now I’ve specifically split up Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Sorry Cowpokes, you got the short end and drew the Texas division. #SorryNotSorry. If the Big 12 doesn’t split up the Oklahoma’s then you have two teams in the Texas division. I’m assuming one new team per division.
Two More Tough Games
BYU was coached by Bronco Mendenhall from 2005-2015. During those 11 years, Bronco compiled 99 wins. He won 10 or more games four straight years from 2006-2009 and a fifth time in 2011. 60 of his 99 wins came in this 6 year period. Still, the Cougars never had a losing record under Mendenhall and only once had a non-winning record.
Houston has not had the same stability of coaches that the BYU Cougars experienced, but nonetheless they have experienced sustained football success. From 2003—2007 they were coached by former Baylor coach Art Briles. He was followed by current Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin was followed by Tony Levine. Levine is the Bill Stewart of Houston Football. Tasked with keeping a juggernaut alive, he performed well (21-17 in 3 years) but the decision makers felt that the team was underachieving. Levine was relieved of duty and Tom Herrman given control.
In those 13 years, the Cougars have compiled 104 wins or 8 wins per year. Just to make math easy, BYU won 108 games in those same 13 years. The teams combined for 212 wins in the past 13 years, making them formidable foes should they join the Big 12.
West Virginia has fallen on harder times since joining the Big 12. WVU has never won more than 8 games since joining the Big 12. Fans complain all the time how the Mountaineers are an outlier in the Big 12, how the team does not fit within the geographical landscape of the conference and how much better life was in the Big East. Do we as fans really want another game, or possibly two games against two more teams who are averaging 8-9 wins a season? We play in the toughest conference in the land and can’t win more than our 4 out of conference games and Kansas. We’re the Vanderbilt of the Big 12! No thank you.
Much More Travel
So far, the Mountaineers spend at least two trips a year to Texas. They always take a trip to Oklahoma. Their current travel schedule is either 5500 miles during the 5-game away trips of 4800 miles during the 4-game trips.
Conference expansion brings the question of a 8-game conference schedule or a 9 game schedule. Using the SEC model, I would expect an 8-game conference schedule with 12 teams. Specifically, 5 divisional games and 3 non-divisional games.
A typical schedule could look like: @Oklahoma, vs Kansas, @ Kansas State, vs Iowa State, @ BYU, vs Baylor, @ Texas Tech, vs TCU. That iteration of a schedule would require the Mountaineers to travel 5,400 miles for only 4 conference games.
Most often with 4 non-conference games, you schedule at least one neutral site or away game. Unless you are Auburn, who never leaves home this year. Adding another travel game, even if its the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff against Florida State, requires more travel costs.
Travel costs to the University are one things. Travel costs to fans is much different. I don’t know about you, but I love seeing the Mountaineers play with 60,000 of my closest friends. I especially love taking over another team’s stadium and drowning out their chants with "Lets Go Mountaineers!" and other, less family friendly versions.
I don’t live close to Texas. I don’t live close to Oklahoma. The last game game I attended was the 2013 game against Maryland in Baltimore. I would like the chance to see the Mountaineers more often. I know you fans would too. I don’t have the money to travel to Provo, UT or Houston, TX.
As you know, West Virginia has to recruit nationally. West Virginia does not produce blue chip players. So WVU looks to the states its knows best, the states around West Virginia and the states the team plays in.
Utah, on the other hand, produces a couple of blue chip players every year. According to research not done by me, the state of Utah has produced 13 players who were ranked as 4 or 5-star caliber.
West Virginia is not going to travel to Utah to possibly gain one of the 3 blue chip players in the state. Players are not going to want to travel across the country to play in the Big 12.
Houston, on the other hand, resides in Texas. Texas is the second leading state in terms of blue-chip players. Texas produced 13.7% of all blue chip players over the past 5 years. Does adding another Power 5 school, which doesn’t have to leave its own state to recruit top quality players, benefit West Virginia? Texas isn’t going to care how many other schools come to Texas. They are Texas. You see burnt orange on your doorstep and you go to Texas. If you’re from Houston and the Cougars offer you a scholarship, now you’re dream of playing against Texas, against Oklahoma while staying close to home can be realized. You aren’t coming to West Virginia.