The four newest schools in the Big 12 haven’t even joined yet, and commissioner Brett Yormark is already looking at potential new members.
Yormark said he wanted to add a team from “out west” that has “national recognition” on Wednesday at the University of Cincinnati. Along with BYU, UCF, and Houston, Cincinnati is one of four schools who will join the Big 12 in 2023.
When it joins the conference, BYU will be the only team in the Mountain Time Zone among those four teams that is located west of the Central Time Zone.
“Well, I don’t want to get into the specifics and I appreciate the question,” Yormark said via the Athletic when asked about further Big 12 expansion. “But obviously going out west is where I would like to go, entering that fourth time zone. A program that has national recognition. One that competes at the highest level in basketball and football, stands for the right things, is a good cultural fit. Because our alignment right now and the like-mindedness of all of our member institutions is fantastic. It’s never been better. So I don’t want to compromise that and that’s critically important that there is the right cultural fit when you think about coming in and being part of what we’re building here.”
When Texas and Oklahoma leave for the SEC and the four newcomers join, the Big 12 will have 12 teams. If the Longhorns and Sooners don’t leave earlier than 2024, the conference might end up fielding 14 teams for the 2023 football season.
Would the Big 12 ultimately be better off with 14 teams? Teams from the Pac-12 would be any apparent expansion prospects west of the Mississippi River. After its existing television contracts expire in 2024, the Pac-12 is expected to lose USC and UCLA to the Big Ten. New TV contracts have not yet been announced by the conference, and those discussions may be conditioned on its sustainability.
Since the Big Ten hasn’t publicly courted other Pac-12 clubs, the conference’s remaining 10 teams have so far appeared to be working together to maintain its unity. Even the commissioner, George Kliavkoff, has made expansion suggestions. Kliavkoff retorted that the Pac-12 hadn’t “determined whether we’re going shopping there or not” when Yormark stated earlier this summer that the Big 12 was “open for business” about conference expansion.
Is it possible for the Big 12 and Pac-12 to grow simultaneously without adding teams from the opposing conference? The national recognition Yormark mentions is a priority, as evidenced by the previous rounds of conference realignment. And there aren’t many nationally renowned teams that are now playing in Power Five conferences.
Because of this, it appears that acquiring teams from the rival conference would be the greatest way for the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to grow. They could all stay the same and maintain some semblance of the Power Five as we know it, but Yormark doesn’t sound like a man who would be willing to retain his conference at 12 teams if OU and UT leave.