Dear Bob Bowlsby,
You got screwed. TCU is a better football team than Ohio State because they only lost by three to Baylor, not by double digits at home to a Virginia Tech team that was OMG and LOL all season. Your conference deserves to be represented in the inaugural College Football Playoff. But you got screwed because you don't have a conference championship game.
You can't have a conference championship game unless you have 12 teams, and no, that's not changing no matter how many times you ask. So unless you want a series of 11-1 Big 12 teams getting left out of the Playoff for the foreseeable future, you probably need to add at least two more teams.
Expanding to 14 could also make sense, but even if the number is only 12: the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida are the most logical choices for you. Here's why:
It is inevitable that someday the Big 12 Network will come to pass. It'll be just like the Longhorn Network, except everyone will get the money instead! The rights fees to carry your network on cable packages will be a stream of revenue that all schools will need to compete within the Power 5 of college sports. And the most potential new TV sets are sitting in the I-4 corridor.
Tampa-St. Petersburg is the 13th largest media market in America. Orlando is 19th. Cincinnati? 34th. Memphis? 48th. UConn? We'll give them Hartford and New Haven, which still only comes in 30th. (Colorado Springs? Fresno? Boise? C'mon.) There are simply millions and millions more eyeballs, bodies, televisions, and wallets available to you on our peninsula than any other place you could expand. We bring potential streams of revenue with us that are larger than any of your other options. Success in college athletics can often be tied to money, and you'll get more of it from here than anywhere else.
We agree there is no way you should add the Florida schools unless the big cable providers in the area are willing to carry the Big 12 Network at a reasonable rate. It will be our responsibility to assure you of that (or at least as much as we can considering the network doesn't exist yet). Remember, though: UCF's stadium is sponsored by Bright House Networks -- a cable company. That can't hurt.
Come to Where the People and Money Are
Schools like West Virginia and Iowa State are in parts of the country where population is shrinking, while Florida continues to grow. Ask the B1G: it's a problem. We can help fix it, and give you a foothold into another area of the country with brighter long-term economic prospects.
Travel Partners for Olympic Sports
No matter what you do, there's no good solution. None of the schools in contention make for partners where you could bus volleyball and soccer teams over a weekend between two campuses easily. West Virginia is too far from everything, and no one is taking a bus from Morgantown to Cincinnati (309 miles) or Storrs (518 miles) and playing well on the second game of that weekend. Cincinnati and Memphis are even worse, and Ames, Iowa, will still be in the middle of nowhere (610 miles from Cincinnati, 649 from Memphis). Right now you're playing midweek conference volleyball games when basically no one else in America does. We might be able to help.
Right now, you have some sensible travel pairs. The four Texas schools (even though the Texas Tech/TCU pairing is tough because Lubbock is in the middle of nowhere), the two Oklahoma schools, and the two Kansas schools are easy partners. You're just screwed with the Morgantown to Ames trip for West Virginia and Iowa State, and not much can be done there. But by adding USF and UCF, you can fly into one of the best airports in America with plenty of direct flights from almost anywhere, then fly out of another with a simple 90-minute bus trip in between. More recovery time, more sleep for tired student-athletes, more study hall on the road. And a lot more fun for your student-athletes: either the beach or Disney if you can get in a day early or stay a day late.
Most of your schools are located in the middle of the country, with some brutally long and desolate winters. Think it'll be a hard sell to your best fans to make a long weekend out of a trip to Tampa or Orlando while coming down for a football or basketball game? You think your biggest and best donors might be excited about this? You think your development officers would be salivating at some rest and relaxation time with their biggest targets? I've got people at Bern's Steak House and the Don CeSar Hotel (it's on the beach, you'll love it), and I'm sure our cohorts to the east can get you some VIP time at a character breakfast for the kids at the Magic Kingdom. We'll hook you up.
You've got most of Texas on lockdown already, but there's an untapped (and possibly even deeper) pool of high school talent in Florida, and games in Tampa and Orlando would make it much easier for you to gain access. Imagine TCU getting kids from Apopka and Armwood? The Longhorns inviting Plant and Cocoa players to their sideline before games right in their own backyard?
Having a footprint in two of the most fertile recruiting grounds in America could help the Big 12 rival the SEC in terms of talent on National Signing Days in the future. If you set it up right, every team in the league could play a football game in Florida every two years. We think that could help get a lot of those Florida kids put pen to paper for your school.
Ask Charlie Strong about recruiting in Florida. He's certainly not the head coach at Texas if he doesn't have all that success at Louisville with kids he recruited from Tampa and Miami. And UT signed a two-for-one deal with USF in football (after they did the same with UCF previously) because they know how valuable this area is to future talent acquisition.
We're (Sometimes) Good At Sports
UCF has won at least a share of the American football title two years in a row, and you probably remember when they beat Baylor to win the Fiesta Bowl last January. (Ouch!! I just got struck by lightning while typing that.)
USF has sold out Raymond James Stadium several times (capacity over 65,000), and has consistently drawn large crowds to watch nationally relevant football games. Ask Kansas: one of our most exciting games ever saw us beat Todd Reesing on a last-second field goal in front of nearly 60,000 fans in 2008. We think our dormant fan base will reawaken when the product on the field is competitive again, and the home games get more compelling. Even when USF was "struggling" through 7-5 seasons from 2008-2010 in the Big East, we were still drawing around 45,000 per game.
On the basketball court, Orlando Antigua is one of the brightest and best young coaches in America, and he served his apprenticeship at what is currently the best program in America (sorry, Kansas). We have every reason to believe he will have success at USF quickly. His recruiting so far has been fantastic, the team is fun to watch, and there's an excitement and buzz about the program that hasn't been there for a long time.
Yes, we realize USF stinks at football right now, and that UCF will be terrible at basketball as long as Donnie Jones is still there. But these things are cyclical. Both teams have fantastic new basketball facilities, plenty of potential, and joining one of the best basketball conferences in the country will help bring that potential out. (And even right now, both teams could probably beat TCU.)
Also, just to clear something up. Both of our schools recently got rid of athletic directors who were actively hurting our programs. The new guys aren't wasting any time setting things right. We both have full faith in our leadership, and you should too.
Our Schools Are Big and Maturing
UCF is the second-largest undergraduate institution in America, and USF is 9th. The sheer size of the schools ensure a large alumni base for decades into the future.
The Big 12's academic profile isn't quite as strong as the other major conferences, but that means a young, research-driven school like USF fits in well. The Bulls also yearn to be a member of the American Association of Universities someday soon, something only Texas, Kansas, and Iowa State can claim from the Big 12 right now. USF brought in over $400 million in research in FY '13 and was one of the largest public institutions in the category nationally. (And UCF tried real hard too.)
A Built-in Rivalry Game With Potential
USF and UCF, despite the crowd you saw a couple weeks ago, is one of the real underrated rivalries in America. It's just hard to get people motivated to show up at noon the day after Thanksgiving to watch a USF team that's been borderline unwatchable for the last three years. Like we said, though, bad teams don't stay bad forever.
In better times, the crowds at the first four football meetings were electric. These two schools truly don't like each other. At all. They think we're snobby and holier-than-thou; we think they're mouth-breathing heathens. We're right, of course.
When both schools are good, it will be can't-miss television. Did you notice how much TCU and Baylor suddenly hated each other again when the conference title was on the line this year? Given enough time, that could easily happen with USF and UCF.
So that's our case, Bob. Come to the land of sunshine, palm trees, TV sets, and talented football recruits. It's the right decision for the long-term health and well-being of your conference. You need us. We need you. Let's make one helluva conference together.
The University of South Florida and The University of Central Florida
P.S. Hey Texas, don't worry: we'll change our hand signal if you insist.