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NCAA vote could force Big 12 Expansion

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BYU's and the Mountain West's futures could both be decided this week

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As the NCAA convention gets under way in San Antonio a ruling is expected on proposed changes to the rules that would allow the Big 12 conference to stage a championship game. Various schemes and compromises are on the table that would allow not only the Big 12, but all FBS conferences with just 10 teams to stage a championship game.

The NCAA rule in question dates from 1987 and requires that championship games be played within a 12-team framework for conferences and between two divisions of at least six teams each. So far, the Big 12 has been adamant that it does not want to add members or be forced to play in divisions, opting instead to seek some sort of compromise that allows for round robin play. Most of the other leagues have expanded beyond 8-10 teams in order to be able to hold a championship game while the Big 12 has been steadfast as the main holdout against expansion. Now, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is leading the charge to change all that.

Similar plans for change are also coming from the ACC. You have to wonder why the 14-member ACC would take sides with the 10-member Big 12 until you realize that the ACC could gain an advantage with a little flexibility of their own. They would like the option to forego a championship game without regard for their own divisional champions and instead pit their best two teams in a championship game.

The approval for change by the NCAA looked like a shoo-in last season, but the landscape has changed since then. One consideration is the reality that such a move by either the ACC or the Big 12 could unfairly place their best teams into playoff contests with other conferences who could find themselves at a disadvantage with their own champions that were decided by divisional winners.

One huge blow to the proposed changes came this past week from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who said his conference will vote against any proposal that would change the format of football championship games. The Big Ten Conference is also balking at the proposed rule changes. Going even further, they are out in front of both the Big 12 and ACC by seeking an amendment that would require conference title games to be held only between division winners. If passed, such a rule would almost certainly pry the ACC's support away from the Big 12's stance.

It is not surprising that the Big 12 has formed a committee of university presidents looking at the possibility of expansion. That could almost certainly be in the cards if the Big 12 doesn't get its way. That could have huge ramifications for the Mountain West Conference, and not just because several members of the conference have been linked to any Big 12 expansion talk, but because of expansion in itself. Right now BYU, Memphis, Cincinnati and two Florida schools have been mentioned as possible expansion candidates.

As for the Mountain West, in the past Bowlsby has stated any Big 12 expansion will take the conference eastward.  He would know so and you have to take him at his word on that. Especially when you consider that West Virginia is already complaining about not having a travel partner and the distances within the Big 12 they have to travel. That could leave BYU as the odd man out again. With no hope of a P5 invite on the horizon and with the P5 leagues all considering a 9-game league season, BYU could soon find itself in search of a conference, and a weakened AAC won't be one of their considerations.