With the Big 12 in a weakened state as OU and Texas prepare to make their move to the SEC, the remaining eight Big 12 teams could be in position to be poached. And the American Athletic Conference is one league with eyes on accumulating those that were left behind, according to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, who on Friday reported the AAC “will try to poach the Big 12’s leftovers, perhaps as a group.”
“What has become apparent over the past 48 hours is that the AAC does not expect to sit back and wait for its best teams to field interest from elsewhere,” Auerbach wrote. “The AAC plans to act as an aggressor, multiple high-ranking sources within the conference tell The Athletic.”
While staying put in the Big 12 and trying to recruit other AAC teams to join the league — as opposed to vice versa — has been pitched as an option (adding the likes of, say, Cincinnati and UCF), leaving the Big 12 may be the wiser choice for OSU and other schools in limbo. Auerbach reports that was a scenario discussed at the conference call earlier this week but in terms of it being the right path for the Big 12, who knows?
Presidents and athletic directors from the eight remaining schools met via conference call on Thursday and discussed trying to stick together — noting that they are bound by the grant-of-rights agreement through 2025 — and even going so far as to discuss potential expansion. The list of candidates could include AAC members such as Cincinnati and UCF, as it did the last time the Big 12 explored expansion in 2016. But it’s also not clear that those schools would add significant value to the Big 12. The league would essentially be adding bodies, not value.
A move from the Big 12 to the AAC would be a step down on multiple fronts: academically, competitively, financially. But the league has something the Big 12 does not now — and covets even moreso — which is stability. And Auerbach adds that its strong position in the market could also lead to the league chasing teams in the Pac-12, too.
“This is a league that has been pushing for respect and a seat at the table alongside the Power 5 conferences,” she wrote. “Being an aggressor and potentially adding members would also better position the AAC to gain autonomy in the NCAA legislative process, as the Power 5 leagues have.”
Could it work? Maybe! Would OSU (or other Big 12 left-behinds) be remotely interested? No clue! Maybe there will be better options on the table. But the SEC set an example here in that it’s a kill-or-be-killed environment right now in college athletics. Adapt or die. The Big 12 appears to be headed towards the latter, so tip your cap to the AAC for attempting the former.
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