The case for the Bearcats:
Cincinnati moved up to the Big East from Conference USA ahead of the 2005 season, and all the program has done since is win, and make great coaching moves. The team’s last four coaches: Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly, Butch Jones, and now Tommy Tuberville, all men who have coached or went on to coach some of the best programs in college football. If there is a true “cradle of coaches,” it may be Cincinnati. The wins have come as well. Since 2005, Cincy has averaged over 8.5 wins, with just two losing seasons. The team peaked under Kelly, averaging 11 wins a year from 2007-2009 before he jumped to Notre Dame. Cincinnati isn’t the flashiest brand, but it plays a fun style of football, and is a consistent program. Cincinnati is also a good pair for West Virginia. The school is just over 300 miles from Morgantown, and a manageable 630 from Kansas. Ohio is dominated by the Buckeyes, but it is the most fertile recruiting ground in the Midwest. The Bearcats basketball program has been similarly consistent under Mick Cronin, making six straight NCAA Tournaments in the Big East and AAC.
The case against the Bearcats:
Ultimately, how much of a splash does the Big 12 aim to make? Cincinnati makes a ton of sense, but grabbing Boise State or Houston, which has had a monster season more recently, may be a bit more flashy. The school is investing in football, and renovating Nippert Stadium, but at 40,000 seats, it would be among the smallest in the conference.
The Bearcats are also in a pro town, with the Bengals and Reds the major sports focuses, which could mitigate the impact of adding the 34th major media market.
Cincinnati is not our favorite fit for the Big 12, but it may be the safest one available. Expect the Bearcats to be very strong contenders here.