The story that seems to like it is going take ahold of the entire college football offseason is Big 12 expansion. Representatives from the 10 conference schools met last week, and afterward it seemed more likely than ever that expansion just might happen.
On the surface, Cincinnati and UCF -- both in major media markets -- appeared to be the front runners for the 11th and 12th spots respectively. But according to an ESPN report on Tuesday, both Houston and Memphis have made strong pushes in recent months to try and get to the top of the list.
Memphis, specifically, seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to get into the conference -- including the unusual step of guaranteeing that local company FedEx will sponsor the new Big 12 title game. Via ESPN:
On Feb. 24, Memphis president David Rudd penned a letter to (West Virginia president Gordon) Gee and copied Oklahoma president David Boren and Baylor president Ken Starr, the other two members of the composition committee, as well as former Big 12 board chairman and Kansas State president Kirk Schulz. In the letter, Rudd pledged that Memphis will make a $500 million investment in academic and athletic infrastructure over the next five years. Rudd also enclosed a letter from FedEx chairman Fred Smith, who stated that the delivery services giant headquartered in Memphis will be behind the school's Big 12 campaign.
"We strongly support the university's efforts to become a member of an expanded Big 12 athletic conference," Smith wrote to Rudd in a letter dated Feb. 23. "In support of [Memphis'] Big 12 aspirations, we have researched college conference sponsorships and are prepared to become a major Big 12 sponsor of football and basketball."
Smith also wrote that FedEx would be prepared to sponsor a Big 12 championship game.
Talk about a sales pitch.
Not to be outdone, Houston has gotten into the mix as well, hosting Gee on campus back in November for a VIP visit:
Documents show that Gee flew to Houston on Nov. 29 to tour the school's athletic facilities and speak with top officials. According to an itinerary outlining the visit, Gee met with Houston president Renu Khator for more than an hour the morning of Nov. 30, then was taken on a tour of the athletic facilities by athletic director Hunter Yurachek and football coach Tom Herman. Gee finished up by having lunch with Khator, three of the school's regents, vice chancellor Eloise Stuhr and Camden Property Trust CEO Ric Campo, who reportedly played a major part in the city of Houston landing the 2017 Super Bowl.
Khator followed up by forwarding Gee a spreadsheet of the Houston football team's TV ratings in the Houston market during the 2015 season.
Just goes to show how far these schools are willing to go to get a seat at the big boy, Power Five table. Yet even despite all the glad-handing and pot sweetening, by both these schools and others, the ultimate decision on expansion is completely out of their control.
That decision will begin to come to light on May 31, when Big 12 officials meet again in Irving, Texas.