Cincinnati may be a target for Big 12 Conference expansion

According to some reports, the Big 12 Conference will meet this summer and reconsider expansion of its membership.

The University of Cincinnati reportedly has expressed an interest in joining the Big 12 and some schools have warmed up to the idea.

Cincinnati is redoing its football stadium with an $86 million upgrade. It seats 40,000, which would be the smallest in the Big 12, but they have plans for future expansion by 10,000-15,000 seats – making it bigger than Baylor or TCU.

Cincinnati University President Santa Ono told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “I do know (Big 12 leaders) think extremely highly of the University of Cincinnati. I would not say there was a reason to be optimistic if I didn’t feel that way.”

Other schools could be in the mix.

The Big 12 has 10 teams and until this year, was not eligible to have a football championship game because it didn’t have 12 teams. In 2014, the Big 12 was shut out of the four-team national championship playoff and many blamed the lack of a championship game. The Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference without a playoff.

Despite the lack of numbers, the Big 12 – especially in football – has been very profitable and popular.

Highlighted by national semifinalist Oklahoma, the Big 12 had 70 percent of its football teams in the postseason. Only two other conferences had a higher percentage of teams finish 6-6 or better.

The Big 12 was the only conference in which all of its bowl opponents were from power conferences.

In 2016, the Big 12 will play 30 percent of its nonconference games versus opponents from peer conferences with four of them on the road. A total of nine nonconference games will be played away from home.

Half of the upcoming season’s nonconference opponents (15-of-30) competed in a 2015 bowl game. The Big 12 will play five teams that played in CFP New Year’s Bowls (Stanford, Iowa, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Houston), the second-most of the peer leagues.

Nine teams return their regular starting quarterback in 2016. TCU was the only team that consistently started a senior in 2015.

Big 12 teams are projected to return 165 starters (16.5 per team) with 71 on offense, 72 on defense and 22 on special teams.

Eight of the Conference’s top 10 rushers return next season, including four that averaged over 100 yards a game.

Four Big 12 teams finished in the top 20 of the national polls with two in the top 7 – No. 5/5 Oklahoma, No. 7/7 TCU, No. 13/13 Baylor and No. 19/20 Oklahoma State.

The Big 12 previously announced a nonconference scheduling requirement in which every team must annually play at least one nonconference game against an autonomy conference institution (ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) plus Notre Dame. The policy accounts for existing game contracts.

The Big 12 has announced two date changes to its 2016 conference football schedule. The Kansas at Texas Tech game will be played on Thursday, September 29 and the TCU at Texas game has moved to Friday, November 25.