Big 12 Expansion Talks Gaining Momentum… Again

The Big 12 is at it again, talking about expansion once again. That puts UCF back in the spotlight as the school's athletic ambitions are teased once again.


Game On.

It looks like the Big 12 is interested in expansion after all.

After it seemed like a long shot as recent as a month ago, the Big 12 Board of Directors have asked Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to evaluate interest of schools interested in joining league who still have “continued interest on expansion.”

The decision was in response to the news of the ACC getting their own television network after striking a deal with sports giant ESPN, according to Brett McMurphy a ESPN College Football Insider.

That now leaves the Big 12 as the only Power Five conference without its own conference network, although member University of Texas has their own television network, Longhorn Network.

However, Big 12 Commissioner Bowlsby said the expansion process began after the Big 12 received “conclusionary presentations” from Navigate/BHV consultants, leading to the board of directors pursuing expansion.

David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma said the expansion of two and four teams both on the table, according to Jake Trotter who covers the Big 12 Conference for ESPN.

UCF is definitely one of the schools that are extremely intrigued by the possibility.

During a press conference Wednesday after introducing new UCF Baseball Coach Greg Lovelady, UCF President John Hitt made strong comments to the Orlando Sentinel and is cautiously optimistic regarding Big 12 expansion.

“We ought to be considered very seriously. There ought to be a home for us in the Big 12. Whether there will be or not, we’ll see,” Hitt said Wednesday morning. “But we’re going to do everything we can to be sure people make whatever decision they make based on good information.”

There is a list of qualities and characteristics the Big 12 is looking for in its expansion candidates.

Boren said the Big 12 has several main factors for schools interested in expansion, such as strength of athletic department, fan base size, media market, school’s reputation, and academic strength, according to Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports.

Let’s take a closer look at each one of them in relation to UCF.

1) Strength of Athletic Department

Since UCF hired athletic director Danny White last year, he has cleaned house when it comes to head coaches.

Gone is UCF interim football coach Danny Barrett (and George O’Leary, whom White replaced as athletic director), men’s basketball coach Donnie Jones, women’s basketball coach Joi Williams and baseball coach Terry Rooney.

In are UCF football coach Scott Frost, men’s basketball coach Johnny Dawkins, women’s basketball coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and baseball coach Gregg Lovelady.

Out with the old and in with the new. And that should keep UCF competitive in the major sports.


2) Fan Base Size

UCF is known around the country as one of the largest colleges in enrollment size with more than 60,000 students. That does not even include the alumni total.

Also, Bright House Networks Stadium has a seating capacity of around 45,000 for football with the school not long ago saying publicly they would increase the total to 65,000 if invited into the Big 12.


3) Media Market

The Central Florida region has a top-20 media market, with the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne areas combing to have the 19th largest media market in the country. That is significant because with the Big 12 wanting a future conference network, having another large media market helps their cause moving forward to attract more television viewers.


4) School’s Reputation

UCF just recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary, and is one of the fastest growing schools in the nation. According to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2016 guide, UCF was tied for the 13th “Most Innovative School”, along with schools like Harvard, Stanford and MIT.

Also, UCF is one of only 25 public universities in the country with the Carnegie Foundation’s highest designations for research activity and community engagement. Not to mention, Florida is one of the top states for recruiting high school athletes.


5) Academic Strength

UCF has a 93 percent graduation success rate for its student athletes, which ranks as the No. 1 graduation success rate for public universities. The incoming freshman going to the university, average an 1853 total SAT score, 27 ACT score and have an average high school GPA at 4.0.

UCF also has a modest acceptance rate at 49.6 percent. The school has a total of 68 National Merit scholars, as well.


That is an impressive resume and it seems that UCF fits the criteria for what the Big 12 is looking for in an expansion candidate.


The Big 12 will not be without numerous options to choose from as it is being reported there are at least 63 FBS schools interested in joining the Big 12. Everyone is looking to take a step up.

There are already early favorites, including current American Athletic Conference members UCF, Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis, USF, UConn and out-of-conference candidates Colorado State and Boise State among others.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the conference will take its time in reviewing and deciding on adding members. They are looking for a school that will provide the conference with long-term growth.


The decision may come sooner rather than later, possibly by September.

Now we wait to see what happens.

UCF will follow this expansion process closely over the next few months.