How the Divisions Could be Structured in the Rumored New-Look Big 12 Conference
With Thursday's news that four front-runners are emerging for Big 12 Conference expansion (Houston, BYU, University of Central Florida, and Cincinnati), my thoughts turned to how the conference would handle the addition of four new teams, following the exits of Texas and Oklahoma.
The last time the Big 12 Conference had divisions for football was in the 2010 season.
The Big 12 North was: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Nebraska.
The Big 12 South was: Texas Tech, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Back, when the Big 12 Conference had two divisions for football each team played eight conference games per season. The scheduling formula was one game against the five teams in your division, and then three games against teams in the opposite division. The opposite division games were set on a two-year rotation, so all teams would be played against, both home and road, every four years. Then, following the regular season, the winner of the Big 12 North Division would play the winner of the Big 12 South Division in the Big 12 Conference Championship Game.
Then, for men's and women's basketball, while the 12 teams were grouped together for one set of standings, football divisions were used for scheduling.
For basketball, a home-and-home series was played against the five teams in your football division (10 games), and then a single conference game was played against the six teams in the opposite football division. This formula created a 16-game Big 12 Conference schedule for both men's and women's basketball.
After 2010, the Big 12 has played in one division for football, and in all other sports. Starting with the 2011-2012 basketball season, the Big 12 expanded to 18 conference games per season for both men's and women's basketball. The scheduling formula became less complex too. Each team in the Big 12 played both a home game, and a road game, against the other nine teams in the conference to equal 18 conference games.
For Big 12 football, starting in 2011, the conference expanded to nine conference games per season, with each team playing the other nine teams once. From 2011-2016 there was no Big 12 Conference Championship Game for football. In 2017, the conference championship game returned, with the regular season first place team playing against the second place team at a neutral site.
Looking to the future of the Big 12, if the four teams mentioned at the start of this column are added to the conference, I think the divisions for football should be set up to be East-West, rather than North-South.
A possible Big 12 Conference realignment would be:
Big 12 West: Texas Tech, BYU, TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State.
Big 12 East: Baylor, Houston, UCF, Iowa State, Cincinnati and West Virginia.
By going East-West for the divisions, all 12 teams in the conference would be guaranteed at least one football game per season in the State of Texas. Also, the three eastern time zone schools (UCF, Cincinnati and West Virginia) are grouped together to help with travel and scheduling.
Just like in the original version of the Big 12, the football divisions could also be used for the basis of scheduling conference games in basketball and Olympic sports. This could help reduce travel for non-football sports too, compared to a North-South alignment.
Have your own thoughts on Big 12 expansion? Leave your opinion in the comments below.