Since the Big 12 announced that it would at least consider adding new members this summer, expansion rumors have been the talk of college athletics. While an unofficial list of 11 schools has floated around the Internet and a few serious candidates have emerged, The Daily Campus sports section has decided to take matters into its own hands with its mock Big 12 expansion. Ten staff members represented the 10 Big 12 schools as their respective university’s presidents and voted on a list of the 11 candidates rumored to still be in the mix. Out of the 11 candidates, six made the cut before the final expansion members are selected next week. The third of the final six candidates profiled in the DC mock Big 12 expansion series is University of Cincinnati.
A favorite since the beginning of expansion talk, Cincinnati remains in the consensus top four candidates to get into the Big 12. If the conference decides to expand by only two members, Cincinnati is still considered a top choice to be one of the schools added.
Cincinnati offers possibly the most complete athletics package of all the expansion candidates. The Bearcats regularly field competitive teams in football and men’s basketball, the sports that collect the most revenue in the Big 12. The men’s basketball program has made the NCAA tournament in each of the past five years, while the football program has played in a bowl game for seven consecutive seasons.
Notable basketball alumni include Lance Stephenson, Kenyon Martin and Oscar Robertson, and previous Bearcats in football include Trent Cole, Brent Celek and Travis Kelce.
In addition to football and men’s basketball, Cincinnati has a baseball program which has produced MLB talents Sandy Koufax and Kevin Youkilis. The Bearcats also claimed American Athletic Conference championships in women’s soccer and women’s track and field in 2015-16.
A topic of debate for Cincinnati, when it comes to Big 12 expansion is geography. Cincinnati is over 900 miles from the Big 12 headquarters in Dallas, Texas, and eight of 10 schools in the Big 12 are located In Texas, Oklahoma or Kansas. However, if Cincinnati was to become a member, West Virginia would get a much needed travel partner and rekindle an old Big East rivalry with the Bearcats, while Iowa State would get another short trip on its schedule.
Media market is said to be another factor in Big 12 expansion, and Cincinnati is ranked as the 36th largest TV market in the country. Upon arrival, Cincinnati would extend the Big 12’s reach into the state of Ohio, where football is extremely popular.
Academically, Cincinnati was ranked 135th in US News’ latest National Universities Rankings. That ranking falls in the middle of the 10 current Big 12 members. Cincinnati ranks fourth among the other rumored expansion candidates, with only UConn, BYU and Colorado State ranked higher.
Overall, Cincinnati seems like a great fit for the Big 12 in all aspects except for geography. But when you consider that West Virginia is even less of a geographic fit, Cincinnati appears to be a heavy favorite if the Big 12 decides to expand.
Josh Buser is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.