Undoubtedly, the pending move of the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns to the Southeastern Conference has sent shock waves throughout college football.
The remnants of the Big 12 are in turmoil and look ripe for the picking from the rest of the Power Five. And while a Power Five destination would be the most preferred for the remaining Big 12 schools, there’s no guarantee the remaining eight will find a new home among college football’s elite.
Instead, some schools may find themselves a part of an expanded American Athletic Conference. Per a report from Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic (subscription), the AAC appears ready to pick off the weaker members of the Big 12 herd in their own conference expansion plans.
Multiple sources believe (Michael) Aresco, the AAC commissioner, is committed to trying such a tactic. And it makes total sense from the AAC standpoint. This is a league that has been pushing for respect and a seat at the table alongside the Power Five conferences. Being an aggressor and potentially adding members would also better position the AAC to gain autonomy in the NCAA legislative process, as the Power Five leagues have. Back in May, prior to news of a potential 12-team College Football Playoff that would include access for all 10 FBS leagues, the AAC’s board of directors sent an eight-page letter to the Autonomy Five (the official name of the Power Five) conferences to request the AAC be included as an autonomy conference, a designation it felt it was “unreasonably” excluded from. This has been the case since 2014, when Division I voted to allow the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC the ability to adopt legislation for their own membership only in specific areas. – Auerbach
Schools such as Baylor and TCU don’t have natural landing spots in conference realignment. However, AAC members SMU and Tulsa provide a template for where the Bears and the Horned Frogs could fit the best. If the Big 10, Pacific Athletic Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, or the SEC choose not to add any of the remaining eight from the Big 12, the AAC would be a solid home to the conferences’ lesser-valued programs.
As this continues to unfold, it’s looking more and more likely that the Big 12 is headed toward its final days as a conference. There have been few reports about potential expansion by the Power Five conference. And any expansion would feel underwhelming relative to the loss of Oklahoma and Texas.