Big 12 Expansion: Why Cincinnati Should Be Left Out


With all the conference reshuffling, many fans would like the Big 12 to go back to 12 teams to stabilize the conference.  With West Virginia and TCU replacing the SEC-bound Missouri and A&M the Big 12 is at 10.  There have been rumors of several schools (Notre Dame, Rutgers, BYU, Houston, and others) joining the Big 12, but two have stood out as the favorites; Louisville and Cincinnati.  What is important to many Big 12 fans is keeping up with the SEC.  Does adding Cincy really benefit the Big 12?  I don’t believe so.

First of all, as an Iowa State fan, I liked the round-robin conference play last year.  However, I know that many others would like to see divisions again in the Big 12.  Going back to 12 teams allows the conference to have a championship game which benefits the Big 12 financially.  So the question becomes which two schools should be added to the Big 12.

Personally, I’m okay with Louisville being added to the Big 12.  In all likelihood, Louisville will be added to the Big 12 in the future.  The addition of the Cardinals doesn’t blow me away, but it is a solid choice.  Louisville adds another market for the Big 12 and does well attendance-wise.  Last year, Louisville averaged around 48,500 fans per game, which ranks 46th in the country.  Louisville is also closer to West Virginia and would give the Mountaineers a rivalry.  There are more reasons why Louisville is one of the best available options for the Big 12, but that is besides the point.

Like I said earlier, Cincinnati is “reported” (take that for what it’s worth) to be the favorite to be the 12th team added to the conference.  After reading the comments of numerous articles, it seems like Big 12 fans would be down with the addition of Cincinnati.  I don’t understand why.

When you see the words “Big 12”, what comes to your head?  What comes to my head and likely your’s are images of large and packed stadiums on Saturdays, diehard fans, and great football traditions.  When you see “Cincinnati Bearcats”, do those images pop up?  Probably not.

For 2011, Baylor had the lowest attendance in the conference as they only averaged around 41,000 per contest.  Where would Cincinnati rank if they were in the Big 12 last

year?  Dead last.  Cincinnati only had an average of 32,000 fans attend their games (9,000 less people than the last Big 12 school).  Yes, I know that their stadium only sits 35,000 people.  The fact that Cincy has a small stadium doesn’t help their cause.  With TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium expanding to a capacity of 50,000 next year, Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium would be the smallest stadium in the Big 12 by 15,000 seats.  I know that the Bearcats have played a few games in the home of the Bengals, Paul Brown Stadium.  They’ve had some pretty good turnouts, but the games at Paul Brown Stadium costed the school over a million dollars in sponsorship money.  Yes, there have been some talks of expanding Nippert Stadium for the past decade, but none of them have come to fruition.

Adding Cincinnati to the Big 12 would expand the Big 12’s product into Ohio.  But does Ohio even care?  The state of Ohio is dominated by the Ohio State Buckeyes who have diehard fans all over the state.  Using the CommonCensus NCAAF Fan Map tool, I selected an area of 200 miles and tried to place it in an area that stretched most of Ohio.  The results I got back; more than seven times the amount of Ohio State fans than Cincinnati fans.  I don’t know the accuracy of the tool, but you can my message.  Is adding the Ohio market to the Big 12 that important?

If I was in charge of the Big 12,  I would like to see the Big 12 wait it out.  Sure, add Louisville, but not immediately.  Currently, the Big East has a 27-month waiting period if a schools want to leave the conference.  Instead of paying extra money like WVU is to leave the Big East, let Louisville wait out the period.  Even if Louisville does get around the waiting period, just play with 11 schools in the Big 12, each playing eight conference games.  While at 11, the Big 12 can make sure that the 12th school added is the best one available.  Should the Big 12 wait around and see if some other premier programs (like BYU and hell, maybe Notre Dame will change their minds in that time) are interested in joining the conference instead of rushing the process and adding a mediocre option like Cincinnati?

The answer is yes.  Before adding another school, make sure it is the best option instead of being stuck with a school like Cincinnati for decades to come.

Updated: After publishing this article, I’ve gotten some expected hate from the Cincinnati base.  I listed a comment below explaining that I know Iowa State doesn’t have the best athletics.  Some are turning this into a battle between Iowa State and Cincinnati, which it shouldn’t be.  I’m not only a Cyclone fan, but a Big 12 fan.  I love the conference and am constantly reading about it and hope it continues to be one of the premier conferences in the nation.  Cincy fans may not believe this, but I have nothing against the school.  As a Big 12 fan, I would like to see the conference explore better options instead of Cincinnati if they are to expand.  Also, I am only one member of Cyclone Nation and my thoughts don’t reflect the thoughts of other Iowa State fans (I know that many like Cincy as an option for the Big 12).

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