This story was originally published by The Signal on September 1, 2016.
How the Big 12 may impact Georgia State Athletics
September 1, 2016 Woody Bass
Big_12_Conference_logoThe conference realignment roulette wheel has begun to spin again as the Big 12 reportedly seeks to add two schools and once again be true to their name.
According to a report by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, 20 schools will present their argument for inclusion to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. The league has reportedly set their sights squarely on raiding the American Athletic Conference including Cincinnati, Houston, USF, UCF, UConn, Memphis, Tulane, Temple, ECU, and SMU. Other potential candidates include independent BYU; Mountain West members Colorado State, Boise State, New Mexico, Air Force, UNLV and San Diego State; SunBelt’s Arkansas State, Conference USA’s Rice and the Mid American’s Northern Illinois.
There will be a number of factors the Big 12 will consider as they interview potential candidates including academics, facilities, culture, region and how they can add to the league’s brand. However, two elements that will likely be at the top of the list deal directly with money and talent.
Big media rights deals, like those already in play with the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12, means big money for those institutions. For the likes of ESPN and Fox Sports, that means access to a sizeable audience. That would give a perceived advantage to Northern Illinois, Temple, SMU, Houston and USF based on Nielsen’s Local Television Market Universe Estimates.
The next biggest element likely under consideration is access to top level talent, and without an argument, the best talent (particularly for football) comes from the states of Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Ohio. USF, UCF, Houston/SMU, San Diego State and Cincinnati likely have the edge in this regard.
Houston is home to the number 10 media market in the entire country and sits in the heart of talent rich Texas. The Cougars recent success under new head coach Tom Herman, coupled with the investment of millions into facilities and the recent support by the governor should be just enough push to consider Houston as a lock to the Big 12 family.
USF sits in the 11th largest media market and UCF the 19th. Both schools would add to the Big 12 brand bringing Florida into the fold for both an audience and recruiting. Both schools have shown they can win on the big stage, but UCF probably has the edge of the two due to facilities, academics and student enrollment.
Houston and UCF departing for the Big 12 make the most sense and would leave some holes for AAC conference commissioner Mike Aresco to fill. Aresco, who would have plenty of options, will have to prepare for the future, and one direction he may set his sights on resides in downtown Atlanta. While the Panthers do not have the history or tradition of some other institutions, it is time to make a case for Georgia State.
It’s student enrollment nearly doubled within a year to a top five and is considered one of the most innovative universities in the country and its academics would equal or rival most other Division I schools.
The campus sits in downtown Atlanta, home to the ninth largest media market in the nation and smack dab in the hotbed of college football megadom, and is walking distance to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Georgia is rich in talent and considered one of the top five states in terms of recruiting.
Athletically, their teams are on the rise nationally on a competitive level across the board particularly with the two money sports – basketball and now football.
The purchase of the Turner Field property and other enhancements to facilities shows the Panthers commitment to athletics.
The university is about 400 miles from Memphis and about 500 miles from ECU and USF.
This will make Georgia State a prime target for expansion. It isn’t a matter of if, but when. Aresco is a brilliant man and knows what a market like Atlanta would mean to the AAC. Expect him to act fast and look to the future with whatever direction he decides to go in.