Big 12 expansion was already a blast with names like Arkansas State and Tulane being thrown around. Now, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, the league’s list of candidates is up to 20, with two more additions that college football fans should enjoy.
The Rice Owls and UNLV Rebels have been added to the ever-expanding Big 12 candidates list.
Big 12 expansion wannabes now 20:AF ArkSt Boise BYU Cincinnati CSU UConn ECU Houston Memphis NIU NM Rice SDSU SMU Temple Tulane UCF UNLV USF
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) August 16, 2016
After the list of 18 was released a few days ago, we ranked reported Oklahoma and Texas favorites Cincinnati and Houston as the two best options for the league. While neither of these two new additions would beat out the Bearcats or Cougars, UNLV is fairly interesting.
Las Vegas is a pretty untapped market in the sports world, generally speakings, with a number of leagues scared away by the city’s connection to the gambling world. The NHL is breaking through the wall with the announcement that it would add a team in the Sin City recently.
Vegas has a population of over 600,000, as well as a ton of tourism, and it is the nation’s No. 42 media market. The Runnin’ Rebels basketball program has a fairly solid history, winning the 1990 NCAA Tournament. The football program, which drives this decision, however, has not been good. Since making the move up to Division IA in 1978, the program has 10 total winning seasons. The Rebels joined the Mountain West Conference in 1999, and have only recorded two winning seasons since that move.
Ahead of the 2015 season, the Rebels hired former Bishop Gorman head coach Tony Sanchez, a very interesting hire designed to tap into that natural pipeline with one of the nation’s top high school programs. He went 3-9 in his first season, and a long rebuild is to be expected.
Rice, on the other hand, doesn’t make much sense at all. If the Big 12 wants to add another program, Houston makes far more sense, and one would imagine SMU would be ahead of the Owls in the pecking order. There’s no real harm in sending over an information packet (as long as you spell everything correctly), but Rice would be one of the more shocking Big 12 expansion additions possible.