After three weeks of work, three rounds of voting and 10 articles, Big 12 expansion is officially over.
Well, not really. Not at all, actually. The real thing may never end at this rate. However, The Daily Campus’ Mock Big 12 Expansion experiment wrapped up this week after a few weeks of quality work from The Daily Campus sports section staff.
This idea for simulating this ever-changing scenario that is Big 12 expansion came to me this summer, and after hashing it out a little with some of my friends and colleagues, we came up with the process that we implemented with the 10 volunteers over the last three weeks.
To quickly summarize, the process went like this: Daily Campus sports members would each be assigned one current Big 12 school. After a week of research, they would and select six possible expansion candidates (UConn, Cincinnati, etc.) from a field of 11. After profiles on the final schools were written, a vote was cast one week later for finalists if the Big 12 added four schools and if they only added two.
So, to the most important question: Did it work?
As a whole, yes. One things for sure, the Daily Campus Mock Big 12 was a heck of a lot more efficient than the real one, and certainly changed their minds a lot less. Perhaps unsurprisingly, parts were right on par with how it is expected to shake out.
While it is now unlikely that the Big 12 adds four new members, our staff correctly chose the four frontrunners in the expansion race when the list was narrowed down to six schools, with those four (UConn, Cincinnati, Houston and BYU) being selected as the four teams added to our hypothetical 14-team Big 12.
For the most part, these schools are head and shoulders above the rest of the pack for one reason or another. Houston offers another Texas presence and the fastest-rising football program in Division I. BYU offers a strong football pedigree. Cincinnati excels at most sports and would provide a travel partner for West Virginia. UConn brings a strong academic and basketball profile with a wildly successful athletic department.
As for Rice and SMU, the two schools that made the final six but didn’t find a home in our mock Big 12, each had strengths but not enough to propel them to a spot in the conference. While Rice offers an elite academic profile, it offers practically nothing else. SMU suffers from being a good candidate but not even the best one available in their own state.
Where things went a little awry is when we voted for two schools to join the Big 12, but neither were really a surprise. Houston easily made the cut to join a 12-team Big 12, as did UConn. UConn is not necessarily a favorite to be picked for expansion, due to it’s location being nowhere near Texas and a football program that has stagnated since bursting onto the Division I scene over a decade ago. But try telling that to 10 UConn students who, as hard as they tried, couldn’t shake their support for UConn. They know how it important it is for the future of not only UConn athletics but the university as a whole.
If we could have somehow eliminated this bias, it’s a different story that almost certainly ends with Cincinnati getting an invite to the 12-team Big 12 over UConn, simply due to the fact that the Bearcats have a stronger football program and a better location. In our votes, Cincinnati received the most for four team-expansion, and was one vote short of beating out Houston for the two-team spot (UConn led the final four in votes for the final two spots).
As for UConn’s chances in the actual Big 12 sweepstakes, I can speak for the section as a whole when I say we are just as out of the loop as everyone else in the media. With Big 12 school presidents changing their mind seemingly every day, it’s impossible to accurately gauge UConn’s chances of getting into the only Power Five conference currently (supposedly now too, I guess) willing to expand, but as more and more information is released, the chances aren’t necessarily looking great right now.
All in all, the point of this whole experiment was to see how UConn and other expansion candidates would do in an attempt to try and simulate the future. With new, contradicting rumors sprawling up each and every day and expansion possibilities getting murkier by the day, expansion candidates such as UConn will just have to continue to wait and see where they end up. Maybe our mock expansion will prove true. Maybe it won’t. Either way, it looks like it will be long time before there’s a chance to see how our staff’s predictions shake out.