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If the Big 12 Is Going to Expand, It Should Do It Soon

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Realignment is the story that will never die, apparently.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma's president David Boren said something yesterday that he's been consistent on for a while: he believes the Big 12 should expand to match up with its own name:

University of Oklahoma President David Boren on Wednesday reiterated his stance that the Big 12 should expand to 12 teams.

"I think it’s something we should strive for while we have the time, stability, all of that to look and be choosy," Boren said. "(We) can be very selective about who we want to add. It would have to add value to the conference. I think we should."

Boren said he worried about not only the perception of the league as other major conferences have expanded but there long-term health of such a setup.

"How many years can this go on?" Boren said. "Finally, it just gets to be really debilitating. I worry about that. That’s something I just worry about long-term about the conference, not short term."

The Big 12 added no one to replace Nebraska and Colorado when those schools decided in 2010 to leave, but it picked up TCU and West Virginia to replace Texas A&M and Missouri in 2011. The conference seems to believe that 10 is the minimum viable number for a power conference, and there's something to that. Having fewer than that eliminates the option for a nine-game football schedule, for instance.

Plus the smaller a conference is, the less margin for error it has. Just look at the struggles of some SEC programs. Florida and Tennessee were pillars of the conference in the 1990s, but they've each been in a funk for five years or more. Last year, Vandy and South Carolina fell off from where they were the three years prior. It would've been Georgia and nobodies in the East if not for the addition of Missouri. Fortunately for the conference, the Tigers hit an upswing and won the division the past two years. No one thinks the East is a murder's row or anything, but MU's addition was a positive.

Anyway, if the Big 12 is going to expand, it should do it sooner than later. Boren offered up a rebuttal to the expansion naysayers who complain that the conference would be worse off with more teams because it'd be splitting its media contracts additional ways:

"The contract says that our main television contract … if we grow from 10 to 11 or 11 to 12, their payments to us grow proportionally," Boren said. "So everybody’s share stays the same. If it’s ‘X’ dollars, it stays ‘X’ dollars.

"Our main media contract says it’s not the same pie now cut 12 ways instead of 10."

Generally speaking, there's not another marquee program out there on the market. It there was, the Big 12 probably would have gotten it already. The names that get thrown around as Big 12 expansion targets—BYU, Cincinnati, Memphis—aren't as attractive as, say, Louisville, who the league could have thrown a lifeline but chose not to and lost out to the ACC.

In other words, any program that the Big 12 takes in will need some time to grow into being a true Power 5 program. It's going to need some years of building and investment to get up to par, and it's going to need years of Power 5-level payouts from TV deals and the playoffs to get there.

The Big 12's current TV contract lasts through the 2024-25 athletic year. It's unlikely that it'll get another blank check about expansion programs automatically getting the same share as the existing programs, as that was a conference realignment-era life preserver to help keep the conference afloat. If the conference is going to show that it has 12 good programs, and not ten good ones with two runts, it has to add those two new programs now to give them time to get up to speed with the rest.

If it's going to stay at 10 indefinitely, then this is a moot point. But, if Boren can convince a majority of his fellow conference mates that expansion is the way to go, the Big 12 needs to act as soon as possible.