Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Colleges

With USF on the table, will the Big 12 pick anyone for expansion Monday?

The Big 12 expansion movement takes its next public step Monday when league presidents offer an update at the end of their scheduled meeting at a Dallas-Fort Worth hotel.

Whether that step will be forward, backward or sideways is open to speculation. Most signs point toward embracing the 10-member status quo as the probable outcome despite millions spent on consultants' fees and significant hours spent vetting expansion candidates — including USF — by commissioner Bob Bowlsby since the July 19 acknowledgment that the Big 12 had shifted into expansion mode.

But check back at the end of Monday's meeting because the momentum could change as options surface behind closed doors, including the possibility of adding two schools as football-only members. The sticking point, multiple administrators have confirmed, is finding an expansion-related proposal that could draw the necessary "yes" votes from eight of the league's 10 members to earn approval.

Multiple Big 12 administrators contacted in the past week offered similar versions of the same mantra in regard to Monday's anticipated outcome: "Your guess is as good as mine."

That's because the power rests with league presidents, and none of them has offered much in a public setting since Oklahoma president David Boren, chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, acknowledged at a Sept. 14 Oklahoma regents meeting that league expansion was "not a given."

In addition, Sports Illustrated reported Saturday that TV executives at Fox and ESPN are discussing the possibility of paying the Big 12 to not expand. The networks seek to offer a fee in exchange for closing a loophole in their contracts with the conference that enables the Big 12 to earn nearly $25 million annually for each member it adds.

That has left coaches, athletic directors and league observers in speculation mode. Though momentum seems to have cooled on the idea of adding full members to participate in all sports, the possibility of adding football-only members remains in play.

Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self addressed that possibility last week on a College Hoops Today podcast with cbssports.com. Asked about Big 12 expansion, Self said: "I think there's a chance we could expand. If we do, there's a better chance of doing football only. I don't think it would affect basketball."

The football championship game will resume in 2017 with or without expansion and will feature a guaranteed rematch of a regular-season contest unless the Big 12 adds more football teams. Because a guaranteed rematch cheapens the value of regular-season contests, it's conceivable league presidents may embrace some football-only members through the 2024-25 season.

After that, the Big 12 appears poised to come apart at the seams unless Texas and Oklahoma can be enticed to stay beyond the length of existing TV contracts. That concern will not dissipate regardless of Monday's action or inaction. At this point, league officials have years to sweet-talk the Longhorns and Sooners into remaining long-term participants.

BYU, a football independent, and Houston, a member of the American Athletic Conference, receive the most attention when speculation surfaces about football-only members. But it might be easier logistically for Air Force, one of 11 finalists on the Big 12's list of expansion candidates, to become a football-only member while shifting its other sports to the West Coast Conference (where BYU competes in sports other than football) than for Houston to make a comparable move with its non-football programs.

Another service academy, Navy, is a football-only member of the AAC and competes in the Patriot League in other sports. So there is a precedent for such an action.

There's also a precedent for Big 12 administrators to embarrass themselves on the big stage. In the minds of most college sports observers, that is what an "expansion is dead" acknowledgment would achieve after so much time and energy spent on the topic for the past three months.

But this much remains true: The expansion candidates are the same schools the Big 12 bypassed in 2011 when it chose to add only TCU and West Virginia to replace Texas A&M and Missouri. Five years later, we'll soon find out if anything truly has changed in a league where surprise announcements are more common than in any other Power Five conference.

Comments
With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

Florida State's primetime opener against Virginia Tech looks a little tougher now than it did a few days ago.Hokies starting quarterback Josh Jackson has had his academic eligibility resolved and remains on the team, the Roanoke Times reported Tuesda...
Published: 06/19/18
As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SEC’s alcohol stance slowly shifting?

As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SEC’s alcohol stance slowly shifting?

USF's expanded partnership with Yuengling — including naming rights to the Sun Dome — is only the latest part in an evolving relationship between college sports and alcohol, as my colleague, Joey Knight, wrote on the front page ...
Published: 06/18/18
Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

OMAHA, Neb. — Florida pitcher Brady Singer has won the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball's player of the year.Singer, who received the award Friday, carries a 12-1 record and 2.30 ERA into the College World Series, which begins Saturday. T...
Published: 06/15/18
Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rex Culpepper is back. The smile on his face said it all. The redshirt sophomore quarterback had his first full workout with Syracuse on Friday after overcoming testicular cancer. He said he broke down and cried when he was told he w...
Published: 06/15/18
Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

During his question-and-answer session with more than 500 Manatee-Sarasota boosters Monday evening, FSU's Willie Taggart was peppered with the normal inquiries about recruiting, offensive scheme and the Seminoles' quarterback derby.All well and good....
Published: 06/12/18
When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

It would have been easy — expected, even — for Willie Taggart to be nervous when he started in place of the injured Tommie Frazier as Manatee High's starting quarterback in 1991.Nope. Taggart wasn't, even though he was the first...
Published: 06/12/18
FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

SARASOTA — He slithered and scrambled his way into the local consciousness in the fall of 1991.Manatee High's Willie Taggart, 145 pounds in a sopping jersey, suddenly found himself with the keys to the Hurricanes' ruthlessly efficient opti...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
Florida Gators add West Virginia grad transfer Adam Shuler

Florida Gators add West Virginia grad transfer Adam Shuler

Former West Virginia defensive lineman Adam Shuler announced Monday that he plans to join the Gators as a graduate transfer.Shuler, a 6-foot-4, 268-pound Longwood native, started 10 games for the Mountaineers last season. As a redshirt sophomore, he ...
Published: 06/11/18
Florida State’s Jessica Warren lives ‘every senior’s dream’ with Women’s College World Series title

Florida State’s Jessica Warren lives ‘every senior’s dream’ with Women’s College World Series title

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jessie Warren’s career finished just the way she envisioned it. On Monday night, Florida State’s star third baseman made perhaps the play of her career, a diving catch and throw for a double play that helped preserve a 1-0 win over Wa...
Published: 06/06/18
Florida Gators hire former Auburn AD Jay Jacobs

Florida Gators hire former Auburn AD Jay Jacobs

Former Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs is joining Florida as its executive associate athletic director, the Gators announced Tuesday afternoon."Florida Athletics is fortunate to have someone of Jay's caliber joining the (University Athletic Assoc...
Published: 06/05/18