Conference realignment shook up the college football landscape in 2012, and the Big 12 was largely hurt by those changes and is now looking to add schools that expand its media and recruiting footprint.
So far, a number of group-of-five schools have thrown their hat in the ring on expansion, but it’s hard to find a team more desperate to join the Power 5 conference than SMU. The Mustangs remain on the outside of the big conference landscape, which undoubtedly hurts their ability to recruit, make money and upset in-state rivals when they play each other.
While the Mustangs have not exactly had a sparkling record in football over the past few years, and are crushed in both T.V. ratings and attendance by the Big 12 teams, even in their own backyard of Dallas, there still exists a few convincing reasons why the Big 12 should add SMU.
The first is academics. Other than the University of Texas, no other Big 12 school offers the classroom rigor of SMU, and no school has risen the national rankings faster than the Mustangs. SMU is currently ranked the 61st-best University in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report and has committed numerous resources to improving that academic standing. For a conference looking to build its academic profile, a school committed to the student component of student-athletes is certainly an enticing add.
Secondly, SMU is a play that prevents the ACC, Pac 12 and Big Ten from adding a school that would expand to the Texas markets. Should the Big 12 pass on SMU, and one of the other big conferences pick them up, that would expand the coverage of that conference into the state of Texas, somewhere they have never been before. That means these schools would be able to recruit Texas easier, as well as have their television network in Texas homes, which would be a massive blow to the Big 12, who has the majority footprint in Texas.
SMU would serve as a preventative measure for the Big 12, ensuring that they will dominate the Texas college football landscape for years to come. Without them, that outcome is extremely uncertain.
Finally, and perhaps most convincingly, the Big 12 should add SMU because of its alumni base. No non-Ivy Leage school has more Fortune 500 CEOs than SMU. Additionally, the Mustang alumni are riddled with billionaires who could make very impressive financial moves, should the Big 12 choose to add their alma mater. The SMU base has a lot of sway, not just in DFW but nationwide, and that could be used as a huge asset to the Big 12.
As the Big 12 moves toward a decision with who to add in expansion, SMU will get considered as it makes geographic and financial sense. The Mustangs don’t need the T.V. money of the Big 12, and would rather use the move to a big conference to solidify their football recruiting and secure the regional rivalries they’ve developed with schools like Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU. The Big 12 will likely utilize a sort of reverse auction to determine who they add, and SMU is in prime position to take advantage.
While it’s ultimately likely that SMU will be left out of yet another bout of conference realignment, the Mustangs have a pretty convincing case for being added, especially considering they’ve been non competitive in FBS football for two years. If the Mustangs can somehow get into the Big 12, it will be an absolute coup for the football program.