Big 12 expansion candidates down to at least 12 schools, sources say

ByBrett McMurphy and Jake Trotter ESPN logo
Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Big 12 has narrowed its list of expansion candidates to at least 12 schools, sources told ESPN.

The 12 schools are Air Force, BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, Colorado State, UConn, Houston, Rice, South Florida, SMU, Temple and Tulane.

Eight of the candidates still alive in the Big 12's expansion sweepstakes are members of the American Athletic Conference: UCF, Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, South Florida, SMU, Temple and Tulane. Air Force and Colorado State are Mountain West members, Rice is in Conference USA, and BYU is an independent.

While at least a dozen schools made the cut, several did not, including Arkansas State, Boise State, East Carolina, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, San Diego State and UNLV, sources said.

ESPN could not confirm whether Memphis, which was also under consideration by the league, made the cut.

As part of the next step in the process, representatives from each school will make in-person presentations to Big 12 officials in Dallas next week, sources said.

The league has said it hopes to make a decision on expansion by the Big 12's regularly scheduled board of directors meeting Oct. 17.

The Big 12 trimmed its group of potential candidates by nearly one-third. Almost two dozen schools that were interested in joining the league conducted video conferences with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby over the past two weeks.

Sources have said that it's "becoming less and less likely" that the league would expand to 14 teams. The most likely scenario is the Big 12 remains at 10 teams or adds two schools for a 12-team league with two six-team divisions, sources said.

East Carolina was the first school to publicly acknowledge it had been eliminated. UNLV and New Mexico officials also said they were no longer in the running.

"While it is obviously not the decision we were hoping for, I am confident ECU put forth its best effort during this process," East Carolina athletic director Jeff Compher said in a statement Wednesday. "Through a determined approach, we were able to tell our story to not only the Big 12 but the entire nation."