Big 12 Expansion: Take UCF and Houston and be done with it

Photo by Chelsea Santiago UCF linebacker Errol Clarke indicates that the Knights have gained control of the ball in the 2nd quarter during the season opening game vs. South Carolina State Saturday, Sept 3.

I’m beyond tired of Big 12 expansion talk. The whole thing is a big mess that the conference is tirelessly milking for publicity and, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if an announcement comes out that no schools will be added.

But, just in case the Big 12 committee actually wants to expand and actually wants to add the best options, I’ll chip in my two cents: Houston and UCF are the best options for the conference. The conference needs to take them and end it all.

At this point, there really can’t be much argument against the University of Houston as the top available candidate. Once you get past the seemingly odd idea of adding a fifth Texas school into the conference, the Cougars make sense. As of right now, their football program is the best among the group of five conferences.

The rest of their programs fit the script for the conference as well, even strengthening the league’s competition in some sports. Houston can provide a good television market, a big student body and an even bigger presence for Texas recruiting. The Cougars should be the obvious pick for expansion if the conference wants to be taken seriously.

There’s little debate about the top candidate for expansion, but who the second team should be is much more complex.

Brigham Young University has a nationwide fan base and a strong athletics program, but the school’s religious affiliation presents some controversial issues, as does its TV network.

Cincinnati is another school with good athletics and a solid recruiting area that would benefit the conference, but with professional sports franchises like the Bengals and Reds in the city, it’s likely that the Bearcats will consistently take a back seat.

UConn’s basketball program is one of the best in the nation, but the football program isn’t strong enough and the idea that the northeast will buy into the Huskies isn’t necessarily true.

USF has some of the same qualities as UCF, but despite their positives, they haven’t had consistent football success and like Cincinnati, there are enough pro sports teams to take the city’s attention away from the Bulls.

BYU, Cincinnati, Connecticut and USF all have their positives, sure, but UCF’s potential is too large to ignore.

UCF just makes sense. The massive student body leads to a large alumni base, the Orlando television market is a big asset for the Big 12 and the conference getting into Florida would be huge in a lot of ways. Being in Florida would be a plus for recruiting, but also in competing with the SEC and ACC, which both have a large footprint in the state.

The Knights have underwhelmed in some areas as of late, but the future looks promising with Danny White as the athletic director. With six new head coaches across the athletic program, there are high expectations for the Knights’ future.

The fan base is there, but it’ll strengthen even more if the stakes are raised with an invite to the Big 12. UCF has its own issues just like everyone else, but there’s enough potential for the Big 12 to buy into. If they do the smart thing and add the Knights, they’ll be able to reap the benefits in the near future.