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Big 12 Expansion: Impact to Softball Programs

If you follow college sports, you’ve probably heard that the Big 12 is considering expansion. At first they weren’t going to expand and everyone thought the expansion talk was dead. Then, at the Big 12 media days, Bob Bowlsby announced that he had been given clearance to begin looking at two or four possible expansion candidates.

We all know that money and football drive the decision to expand the conference. With current television contracts in place, ESPN and Fox will have to pay around $25 million more for each school the Big 12 adds. Although that seems to be a problem with TV rights holders.

So will they add two or four teams? What will these teams be? At this point no one knows, but speculation is running wild and the list seems to be growing every day.

We know football will be the biggest factor in deciding which teams get added, but we decided to look at it from a softball perspective and see what each potential candidate brings to the table in terms of a softball program. .

At this point, almost every school not participating in a Power 5 conference is a candidate. We’ve limited ourselves to these seven as we consider them to be the most viable options.

BYU:

BYU is probably the team mentioned most often when talking about the Big 12 expansion. Currently independent in football, their other sports are in the West Coast Conference (WCC).

Coach: Gordon Eakin (14)

Record 2016: 36-21 (12-3 in WCC)

Conference Championships: 12 – Last in 2016

The Cougars have been dominant for the past 10+ years regardless of what conference they’ve been in. They have won eight consecutive conference championships in four different conferences (WCC, Pacific Coast Softball, WAC, MWC). They went to NCAA Regionals for 11 consecutive seasons, qualifying for the Super Regional in 2010 against Arizona. Add to that the fact that BYU has the fourth-largest NCAA softball facility on campus, and BYU would fit right in with other Big 12 schools.

Houston:

Another team that is often mentioned is Houston. Their location in Texas and the recent success of their football team have helped boost their notoriety.

Coach: Kristin Vesely (1st season)

Record 2016: 27-29 (9-9 in the AAC)

Conference Championships: 0

Although Houston has not won any conference championships, they have appeared in NCAA Regionals 7 times. With their last appearance in 2014, they twice qualified for the Super Regionals, losing to Oklahoma State in 2011. Houston plays its home games in the 2,000-seat Cougar Softball Stadium. New coach Kristin Vesely takes over in 2017, but has been with the program for several years. Prior to Vesely, the Cougars were coached by Kyla Holas who recorded 563-376-1 in 16 seasons. In 2016, Houston faced 4 Big 12 teams and went 3-4 in those games. With a little time and the financial backing of a Power 5 conference, Houston could become a Big 12 contender every year.

University of South Florida:

If the Big 12 is going to grow, many people think they want to enter the Florida market and have mentioned USF as one of those options. The Bulls, coached by Ken Erickson, play in a new stadium and have playoff history.

Coach: Ken Erickson (20)

Record 2016: 45-16 (15-3 AAC)

Conference Championships: 5

Coach Erickson has taken USF to NCAA Regionals 12 times. They have twice qualified for Super Regionals and made a Women’s College World Series appearance in 2012. In 2011, the Bulls opened USF Softball Stadium. The history and facilities compare well with other Big 12 teams. With its location in Tampa, the Bulls have access to plenty of talent to keep competing.

University of Central Florida:

UCF is almost always referred to with USF, as they are only about an hour apart. Adding the two schools would give the Big 12 a strong presence in Florida State. Not to mention that it would make planning and travel a little easier for both schools. UCF is the second largest university in the nation with 63,000 students.

Coach: Renée Luers-Gillispie (15th season)

Record 2016: 38-22 (12-4 in the AAC)

Conference Championships: 4

The Knights have appeared in the NCAA Regional Championships six times, including in 2015 when they were eliminated by the Florida Gators. In March 2006, they opened the UCF Softball Complex, at the time one of the best facilities in the AAC. The program has come a long way under coach Renee Luers-Gillispie who started the program in 2002. Competing every weekend in the Big 12 could be a challenge for the Knights for a few years. Over time and with a commitment to softball, they could become a competitive team in the Big 12.

Memphis:

The Tigers have recently started to gain support as Big 12 expansion candidates, largely due to Fedex’s offer of support. The company has pledged millions of sponsorship dollars for the Big 12, but it remains to be seen how that will affect the Big 12’s decision. From a softball perspective, the Tigers would struggle to reach the top half of the conference.

Coach: Natalie Poole (6 seasons)

Record 2016: 26-31 (7-11 in AAC)

Conference Championships: 0

The Tigers have a regional appearance in the NCAA in 2011. They have never won a conference tournament. However, they have only played softball since 2006. In that time, they have an overall record of 258-291. Their current roster is littered with kids from the Southeast with a few from the West Coast, so the Memphis brand is spreading. The question becomes what is the university’s commitment to sports? Given the Big’s $12, that engagement could grow.

State of Colorado:

Colorado State has started to gain momentum as a potential addition to the Big 12 conference. Part of that has to do with the location and area of ​​Denver which has many Big 12 alumni. The Big 12 lost Colorado to the Pac-12 and could easily replace them with the Rams and win back the Denver TV market.

Coach: Jen Fisher (6 seasons)

Record 2016: 22-24 (8-12 in MWC)

Conference Championships: 4 – Last in 2004

The Rams have been an intermediate team in the MWC since joining the conference in 2000. They have finished 1st once, 2nd three times, and 3rd three times. They have finished 4th or worse 14 times in the nine-team conference. It’s hard to be consistently good at softball in Colorado. If added to the Big 12, they would have many of the same challenges that Iowa State currently has in the conference. The Cyclones have finished last for five consecutive seasons, never winning more than four conference games.

Cincinnati:

The Bearcats did not hesitate to contact the Big 12 to ask them to join them. Many people think they have the support of Oklahoma President David Boren. The downside from a softball perspective is that they don’t currently offer the sport. Could they in the future? May be. Currently, the Big 12 has only 7 of the 10 teams playing softball. TCU, West Virginia, and Kansas State also do not play softball.

No matter who the Big 12 adds, there will be an impact on current softball programs. The extent of the impact remains to be seen based on how many and who they add. So, like all of you, we sit and wait.

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