How would an expanded Big 12 work?

Part 2 of 2

In the first part of this series, we examined the possibility that the Big 12 make a bold move to go after six Pac-12 schools – USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington – to make a mega conference with a national sea-to-almost-shining-sea footprint. In Part 1 we looked at the benefits and pitfalls of the potential move

In Part 2, we examine a nuts-and-bolts logistics plan if it was to happen.

To start, we will focus on how this would work for the revenue sports of football and men’s basketball. Women’s basketball would likely work the same way. There are too many other sports with too many variables to calculate here.

It is possible that, if this mega conference were to come into being, that it would it apply ONLY to football and basketball. No conference has gone this route all the way, but for a conference with about 3,000 miles between some schools, this would be the way to go.

It’s one thing to send West Virginia’s football team to Eugene, Ore., for a game. The revenue gain makes that at least palatable. It makes no sense to annually send the WVU baseball team on that kind of road trip.

This 16-team conference (we’ll call it the Big 16 going forward) would have to be divided into two eight-team divisions. With the way the geography works, an East and West division split makes the most sense. The former Pac-12 schools would make up six of the eight West teams. The next determination is which two of the former Big 12 schools would join them.

It’s likely a foregone conclusion that Texas would be one of those schools. As the school with the highest revenue pool, the Big 12 would likely have to offer a Texas carrot to the Pac-12 departures as incentive to make the move.

Oklahoma is the other big-money draw in the current Big 12. But moving both Oklahoma and Texas to the division with the Pac-12 schools would make the divisions grossly uneven competitively in football. Also, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma likely would have to be linked.

So Texas is in the West with the Pac-12 schools. Texas Tech is the furthest west school in the current Big 12, so the Red Raiders make the most sense to join the Longhorns in the new Big 16 West division.

With this divide, for competitive play purposes, it’s better to think of it as two mini eight-team divisions rather than think of things in 16-team terms. The conference would still play nine conference games.

For football, as a member of the Big 16 East, West Virginia would have seven conference games against East division teams (four home, three away; opposite the next year) and two (one home, one away) against the West. Having one road game against the West would reduce the cross-country travel to only one game per year. That isn’t too taxing.

Mathematically, this set up means that WVU would host the West schools once every eight years. For example, USC would travel to Morgantown once every eight years. That would be a great game for Mountaineers fans to attend.

The fly in the ointment here is, with Texas and Oklahoma in opposite divisions, the longtime rivals would only play once every four years. It’s doubtful either school would be satisfied with that arrangement.

The new league likely would capitulate that Texas and Oklahoma would continue the Red River Rivalry annually. As such, WVU would only play Texas once every eight years and only host the Longhorns once every 16. That would effectively put an end to the “Horns Down” rivalry that has developed between WVU and Texas.

The Big 16 Conference championship game would be between the East and West champions. It’s likely this game would float between Dallas, Glendale, Ariz., and the new football stadium in Los Angeles.

WVU has yet to reach the Big 12 title game. The Big 16 championship game would be a little easier to earn a spot, but not much. Now, WVU has to best eight teams to make the title game. In this format, the Mountaineers would have to finish ahead of seven.

Devising a plan for football is fairly straight forward, except for the Red River Rivalry issue.

Basketball is a little more complicated.

Here is the best plan as we see it. The schools would be in the same divisions in football and basketball. And like in our football plan, the basketball format will treat the Big 16 not as a one large conference as much as it makes it into two mini conferences.

Here is the plan outlined in a WVU-centric way.

WVU, as a member of the Big 16 East, will play 18 conference games, same as now. But the Mountaineers would play home and home against the other seven East division teams. That leaves four games against the West division. These games will be played on a rotating basis, with two home, two away.

Splitting the conference into divisions that are mini conferences unto themselves is a way to reduce the burdensome travel that a coast=to-coast conference entails. WVU would have two West Coast trips annually (at USC and at Arizona one year, at Washington and at UCLA the next, for example). That is much more feasible than would be the case if the Mountaineers played every team in the conference every year.

This mini-conference format would extend into the conference tournament. With this plan, the Big 16 East and the Big 16 West play on opposite sides of the bracket, with the winners from each meeting in the Big 16 championship game.

You could even extend this idea further and hold the East and West brackets in different locations – say the East in Kansas City and the West in Los Angeles. Then the championship game could alternate between the two or even play someplace completely different like Dallas.

Logistically, there are some burdensome problems with this possible expansion. But once you split the conference into East and West conferences, the issues aren’t much worse than what West Virginia faces now.

It might not be the ideal solution. But the Mountaineers being in the Big 12 with their closest conference foe more than 800 miles away isn’t ideal either. Being in the Big 12 beats the alternative (American Athletic Conference).

An expanded Big 12 that turns into the Big 16 might be the only alternative to the Big 12 being poached instead of doing the poaching.