Peterson: Here are some schools worthy of consideration when it comes to Big 12 expansion

Randy Peterson
Des Moines Register

Let’s see if I have this right:

Just a month or so ago, the Big 12 Conference was concerned that the American Athletic Conference might be on the verge of poaching some of its remaining eight teams.

Don’t look now, but that scenario just might be reversed.

I see that the Big 12 has formed a four-person committee to study expansion. The committee includes Iowa State president Wendy Wintersteen. Don’t be shocked if some of the expansion candidates currently reside in the, ahem, American Athletic Conference.

Yeah, it looks like here we go again. The Big 12 Conference might combat the “raid” and the “alliance” by adding teams. It’s what some of us have been writing and saying since Texas and Oklahoma started the chaos by defecting to the SEC, and really, it’s the best way to proceed.

For goodness' sake, don’t disband the Big 12 and leave the exit money on the table. Make the two malcontents pay for their shenanigans. Make sure the Big 12 continues to have a seat at the Power Five table, or whatever it will be called when this reshuffling dust settles in a few years.

But with whom?

More from Randy Peterson:

Certainly Cincinnati, Central Florida and Memphis should be among the American Athletic Conference schools on the Big 12’s explorative list. And what the heck, take a good look at Houston, too. And put independent BYU smack dab on top of the list. If the decision is to go with a 16-team, four-division setup — the more the merrier. Colorado State? Sure. South Florida, Tulane and Boise State? French Quarter during the fall would be appealing to fans.

However the Big 12 expands, distribution money won’t be nearly the same as it used to be. Oklahoma and Texas meant major millions in that respect. No one outside of Notre Dame can even come close. The Irish aren’t joining the Big 12.

"There is a lot of interest in the Big 12 Conference," Texas Tech athletics director  Kirby Hocutt, a member of the expansion committee, told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal "There is a lot of interest for people to be associated with us, to join with us. So we will take our time, be diligent and make sure we make the right strategic decisions for the long-term future."

Who might the Big 12 look at? Here are five possibilities for what might be four spots.

Could BYU finally become a Big 12 Conference member?

BYU

This seems almost too obvious. The football program is solid. I was in Provo when Iowa State played a men’s basketball game there a while back. The excitement started the night before the game, with students camping out to get tickets.

Nearby Salt Lake City is the nation’s No. 30 television market. BYU would have even more reach when college athletics gets more involved in the streaming business.

Central Florida

A Big 12 school in the heart of Florida? That seems like a no-brainer. Orlando, UCF’s home, has the nation’s No. 18 television market. The school has 300,000 alumni. In 2017, the football team went 11-0 during the regular season under then-coach Scott Frost. That program is now coached by Gus Malzahn, who led Auburn to the BCS national championship game in 2013.

Cincinnati

I don’t know how this one would sit with Iowa State coach and Ohioan Matt Campbell, given his recruiting successes in the state. David Montgomery is from Cincy, remember. Would the Bearcats be a recruiting threat, now as a member of a big-time conference? We don’t know that. We know, however, that Cincinnati has a strong basketball program.

Houston

The fourth-largest city in the United States has the eighth-largest TV market, according to the Nielsen ratings. That’s significant, any way you cut it. Football coach Dana Holgorsen returns to the Big 12. Cougars men’s basketball Kelvin Sampson returns to the Big 12. 

Memphis

The football program is solid. The basketball program is trending positive, too. And don’t forget that Memphis is the corporate home of FedEx. That can be significant, as well, if the conference is looking for a business partner with big bucks.

* * *

BYU makes the most sense right now, assuming political and philosophical differences don’t get in the way. Cincinnati makes the second-most sense, then Memphis and take your pick — Houston or Central Florida.

Four additions make the conference a legitimate Big 12. An honest-to-goodness conference name matching the number of teams in the conference?

That’d be a novel approach.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.