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Big 12, As Of Now, Does Not Favor Expanding
May 30, 2012
By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the past several weeks, expansion talk has again swirled around college athletics. Unlike years past, though, the ill winds are not threatening to blow apart the Big 12 Conference, which is holding its annual spring meetings here this week.

The speculation even brought a reporter from the Tallahassee Democrat. As you might have heard - even if you're not a social networker - Florida State might (or might not) be interested in leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference if the Big 12 was willing to grow its current membership.

The message Wednesday, though, was clear. Ten is enough.

"We think we're positioned extremely well," said Iowa State's Jamie Pollard, chairman of the Big 12 athletic directors. "I don't think there is anything that has transpired that would [make] us talk about that anytime in the near future. At the same time I think it's important to say our heads aren't buried in the sand."

Acting commissioner Chuck Neinas, whose stewardship during the past nine months has helped solidify the Big 12 during a time of uncertainty, echoed Pollard's sentiment.

"The future is very bright for the Big 12 Conference," he said. "There is no hurry to consider expansion. You have to remember where we were and where we are. We have to build family unity. We have the opportunity for two new members to come into the Conference. We have a very cooperative spirit and something to build on. When you build a house, you build the foundation first.

"Are we happy and satisfied at 10? Yes. We have not reached out to Florida State nor have we been contacted by Florida State."

There are several reasons why the Big 12 wants to stay at 10 members. One reason is the round robin scheduling for football and basketball. Another is the evolving nature of college football's postseason. The Big 12 has put a major brick in its foundation with the recently announced game that will match teams from the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conference.

Over the next month or so, a new postseason model for deciding a national champion is expected to be finalized. With 10 teams, the Big 12 believes it has the most convenient path to playing for a national title if a four-team playoff is involved.

"We appreciate the position we're in by not having a championship game," Pollard said. "Our champion can get there with one less game. It's a good position to be in."

Expanding to 12 or more teams wouldn't necessitate a conference championship game but scheduling models would be challenging because round-robin play would be eliminated. Having 12 or more teams would allow for a conference championship game but as Pollard pointed out, one more game for a team to win in order to play for a national title.

"The first time somebody's best team gets knocked out of a four-team playoff because they lost their championship game to a 7-5 team or 8-4 team, we'll see how long they want to keep a championship game," Pollard said of conferences that have expanded, split into divisions and have a title game.

Neinas was asked what would happen if Notre Dame picked up the phone and called the Big 12 about joining. "We'd accept the call," he said.

Perhaps the only development that could change the Big 12's decision to stay at 10 schools would be a membership inquiry from South Bend. That may or may never happen. But for now, the Big 12 is ready to forge ahead with 10 members.

The Big 12 championship sites for 2012-13 have been set. There will be 11 Conference championships held on campus sites. Member schools submit bids to host. One of the biggest changes in next year's championship schedule involves the Phillips 66 men's and women's basketball championships. For the first time in Big 12 history, the events will be held at different times in different cities. The women's championship will be in Dallas at American Airlines Center from March 8 to 11 - that's Friday through Monday. The men's championship will be in Kansas City at the Sprint Center from March 13 to 16 - Wednesday through Saturday.

As mentioned, how college football determines its national champion is in the decision process.

"Our athletic directors continue to favor a four-team playoff and there's a desire to rank one through four and having the four strongest teams involved," Neinas said. "There's skepticism regarding the current ranking system.

The Big 12 will push for a selection committee to help determine the four teams involved in a playoff. "There needs to be a human element to kind of handle the unknowns. You can't always say computers get it right or opinion polls will get it perfect,'' Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. "You still need someone with good, rational thinking to deal with unforseen circumstances that may come up. Who knows what form that takes but some form of human element that gets college football to the point of determining the best teams.''

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