By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With the Pac-12 holding off on expanding to 16 teams, Oklahoma and Texas will stay in the Big 12 – for now. However, the conference is expected to pursue expansion and likely attempt to get back to 12 teams.
Texas A&M is out the door and won’t be returning to the SEC, which leaves the Big 12 at nine teams for the 2012 season. The conference could choose to expand to only 10, but getting to 12 would provide more stability.
Which schools could be added to the Big 12?
Air Force: The Falcons are a hot commodity in realignment, as the Big East and Big 12 are likely in pursuit. Air Force has a national fanbase and has been a solid program in the Mountain West. Adding the Falcons would get the Big 12 back into Colorado. However, Air Force has struggled to find success in other sports and isn’t a home run target for the Big 12.
Big East: Although the remaining football schools in the conference have pledged to stick together, there’s no guarantee that happens. The Big 12 needs to take a hard look at getting West Virginia, Louisville, or Cincinnati. Maybe the Big East will survive, but it can’t hurt the Big 12 to try.
Boise State: If the Big 12 is serious about adding competitive options, the Broncos are a good fit and should be near the top. However, it's a longshot Boise State gets a call from the Big 12 with an invitation.
BYU: The Cougars are in the first season of Independence, but would be a great fit for the Big 12. BYU is one of the most competitive football options available and has a national fanbase. There are zero cons about adding BYU to the Big 12, but will the Cougars ditch Independence after one year for a conference still on shaky ground? If the Big 12 is serious about securing its future, BYU should be target No. 1.
Houston: With Texas A&M gone, the Cougars are an attractive target for the conference to get back into Houston. The facilities are in the process of an upgrade, and the program could be very competitive in the Big 12 with BCS money. Houston is a very solid choice for the conference, but may also be a target for the Big East. If the Big 12 wants to strengthen its footprint in Texas, Houston is a very good choice.
Notre Dame: A very, very unlikely candidate. However, the Big 12 will at least place a call to South Bend.
SMU: After suffering from the effects of the death penalty, the Mustangs are finally competitive once again. Coach June Jones has SMU on the right track, which certainly helps to make the program more attractive in realignment. Support isn’t great, but is located in Dallas. Would probably be behind Houston in the pecking order.
TCU: Are the Horned Frogs interested in departing the Big East? With the conference dealing with instability, TCU should be a prime target for the Big 12. However, would Texas let the Horned Frogs in?