The Big 12 has some major decisions to make as it looks to remain viable after the departures of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC. Bob Bowlsby needs to try and keep his current group together, which may be tough if other Power Five leagues come calling for the likes of Oklahoma State, Kansas, West Virginia, and others, and could look at add other schools to bolster membership in time to negotiate a new media rights deal.

A few years ago, the Big 12 flirted with expansion. A number of major Group of Five programs, including UCF, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, and even Boise State and BYU were floated as potential candidates to jump up a level. The move is less clear, as the AAC intends to be aggressive and could even look to vulture current Big 12 teams if more poaching occurs, but it makes plenty of sense at the Bowlsby and company are reexamining this situation.

According to Max Olson on The Athletic, the Big 12 has zeroed in on four schools as potential options. AAC powers UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston, and independent program BYU are on the short list.

“If the athletic directors and presidents of the league’s eight remaining members can reach a consensus on which members to invite, sources believe it’s possible that the process could move faster than initially anticipated,” Olsen reports. “The ADs of the Big 12’s remaining schools met with commissioner Bob Bowlsby in Dallas on Tuesday and Wednesday to begin planning the future of the conference.”

Even adding one or more of those schools won’t reverse the idea that the Big 12 has fallen off of the top tier of college football conferences. The reactions to today’s news reveal just how fascinating this whole situation is.

This would be a huge blow to the AAC as well. The American has felt like a hodgepodge of teams, but it has undeniably produced some very fun, competitive football. Losing a few of these top teams would push them far closer to the Mountain West and Sun Belt than the bottom of the Power Five.

It’ll be hard to get much agreement on the landscape here. There are plenty of fans of programs like Oklahoma State that feel above this new-look Big 12, while others say the Mountain West could be the big winners here, and speculate them poaching some of the Western AAC schools like SMU in reaction.

We’re in very fascinating times for the college football world, and it’s anyone’s guess how things will look just a few years down the road.

[The Athletic]

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