So all this time, we've been thinking that UCF was one of perhaps six or eight teams that were in a position to make a pitch for inclusion in Big 12 expansion, if it happened.
Welp, here's the latest this week hot off the Big 12 Speculatron:
Now up to 18 on Big 12’s expansion list: AF ArkSt Boise BYU Cincinnati CSU UConn ECU Houston Memphis NIU NM SDSU SMU Temple Tulane UCF USF— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 12, 2016
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 18 SCHOOLS? Arkansas State? Temple?!? TULANE??!?!?
I'm all for leaving no stone unturned, but what in the holy hell is going in Irving right now?
The Big 12's tortured process for deciding upon expansion in the first place has been bad enough. But the fact that they are entertaining apparently anyone who comes knocking at the door should be a gigantic red flag to any school that is seriously considering staking their futures on admission to the league - UCF included.
So now I'm starting to wonder: Is it really worth it?
The Case Against the Big 12
We've long known that Texas and Oklahoma are the 800-pound gorillas in this conference. What they say carries a lot of weight. Oklahoma State (with T. Boone Pickens' support) and Kansas (with its highfalutin basketball cache) are in distant second in clout, and everyone else is in a distant third. Do not fool yourself: The SEC, B1G and Pac-12 know this.
We've known that Texas' Longhorn Network, a decade-long extortion scheme exacted upon cable subscribers via ESPN, is the reason there will be no Big 12 Network.
We've learned Oklahoma wants the league to expand as a result of that.
We've learned not everyone is totally on board with them.
And now we know that, according to the Big 12, BYU, UCF and Arkansas State are all worthy of taking a meeting.
Say UCF does get into the Big 12. Do we want to latch ourselves to this boat knowing it might sink is Texas, Oklahoma, and perhaps Oklahoma State and Kansas hop onto a skiff bound for the sunny shores of the B1G, Pac-12 and/or SEC in a few years?
UCF spent the better part of a decade angling for a spot in the Big East, only for the league it thought it was joining - and its TV revenue - to evaporate under its feet.
The Big 12's house, divided against itself, is standing for the moment. So why would UCF be okay with signing mortgage papers for it?
And say Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and/or Kansas start flirting with leaving for greener pastures in the SEC, B1G or Pac-12, thus rendering the Big 12 The American South. How far will UCF go to try and lure them back in and keep the league - and its revenue - afloat? How far should UCF go?
Finally, say we start kicking some ass in the Big 12 and suddenly we're on the doorstep of the College Football Playoff. Do you really think Texas, Oklahoma and the rest are going to be 100% in our corner, lest we forget how thrilled they were about TCU and Baylor being the class of the conference two years ago?
Are we really cool with being treated like a second-class citizen even when we're in the Big Boy Club, just because the dough influx is amazing? Is it really worth selling our souls to Texas and Oklahoma?
I don't know the answers to these questions. You don't either. And frankly, I don't know if UCF's brass is really all that concerned about it right now, although I hope they are, and I hope they have a plan for it, because the way the Big 12 is run, it wouldn't surprise me if these questions become serious sooner rather than later.
What I do know is that if we as a fan base are totally okay with all of that baggage to get into the Big 12, then we had better be OK with all of the consequences - intended and unintended - of that decision. And we probably won't like many of those consequences, should the worst-case scenarios come to pass.
The Case For the Big 12
Well, the money, obviously. I've said this before, and it bears repeating: As a fan, I want UCF in a Power Five league, and if it has to be the Big 12, so be it. The annual windfall from being in a Power Five conference - in the neighborhood of a $30 million full-share payout per school - is simply too much to pass up, especially for a school like UCF, who gets about $2 million from its current TV deal with The American and relies on student fees a little too much for my liking.
So now it comes to the obvious cautionary tale: Be careful what you wish for.
But while The American isn't what we fans thought it would be when UCF joined, at least it has been well-run since UCF entered. Given the departure of Syracuse, Rutgers, Louisville, West Virginia and Pittsburgh, Mike Aresco has done a solid job of not only maintaining a pretty competitive league with solid media markets, but also re-building on the fly by poaching Conference USA to create a sort of New Metro Conference.
So the question, Knight fans, is this: Would you rather be in the 3/2 in the fairly nice neighborhood with the reasonable mortgage, or move up to the McMansion in the gated community where, if the economy goes kaput, you foreclose and lose everything?
So let's sit back for a second and think really hard about what's going to happen if UCF gets into the Big 12, and what's going to happen if it does not. In the end, it may not be all rainbows and unicorns.
As far as the reporting and endless speculation, here's what we've learned:
- Brett McMurphy and Chuck Carlton are plugged in on this story.
- The rest of you (me included) are not.
- I'm listening to them.
- You should too.
Until they have something to say, I don't trust a damn thing, and neither should you.
And remember: Those who know don't speak, and those who speak don't know.