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Big 12 Has Reportedly Formed Subgroup to Explore Expansion

Could the Big 12 add and stay together?

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College athletics has been in a bit of chaos since Oklahoma and Texas made their leaps to the SEC, but the Big 12 apparently isn’t just sitting on its hands.

Max Olson of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Big 12 has put together an expansion subgroup to help lead the way in the league’s internal discussions on adding schools. Olson reported that process is in its “preliminary stages,” and that if the conference were to expand, it would need a supermajority vote of eight schools to move the process along. So long as OU and Texas are in the conference, they would be a part of that vote, meaning the eight left-out teams would all have to agree.

A potential hurdle with continuing to expand would be whether the remaining Big 12 teams would want to commit to the Big 12 in its current state instead of pursuing options elsewhere. The Pac-12 is expected to make a decision on whether it will expand by the end of the week. If it chooses to do so, it would seem likely that a handful of the remaining Big 12 schools would be options for the league out west, which would likely be more attractive than a pieced-together Big 12.

At least 15 schools reached out to the Big 12 with interest in joining the league, Olson adds, mostly from the American and Mountain West, but he didn’t report any schools by name.

BYU, Memphis, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and Boise State seem obvious schools for the Big 12, but Olson reports there is still some reluctance to engage talks with Houston, a school of about 45,000 enrolled in the fourth-most populated city in the country, because of the league’s “unpleasant experience with UH board chairman Tilman Fertitta in 2016.”

Ferititta was outspoken when the Cougars weren’t more deeply considered for the Big 12 in 2016, the last round of expansion talk.

“That’s kind of disappointing that Texas with their big budget fears the University of Houston,” Fertitta told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd back then. “For other schools in the Big 12 to keep them out because they’re scared of them, men need to be men.”

Many criticized the Big 12 choosing not to previously expand, but as Olson pointed out, things could play out differently (if the Big 12 sticks together) without the need to appease Oklahoma and Texas.

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