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Monday, May 23, 2011
Poll results: Big 12 expansion?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Always interesting to get your thoughts on teams looming around should the Big 12 seriously explore expansion in the future. As I've reiterated in this space, the league currently is not exploring expansion, and I don't believe it will, but if problems emerge between now and the television contract negotiations for first-tier rights in 2015, I could see it becoming a possibility. And that could result in big money.

Anyway, let's take a look at what you thought. I grouped them into logical two-program groups, but again, you're more than welcome to offer suggestions in my mailbag. I heard from a ton of you on this, and we'll take a look at what some of you had to say later on this week.

No. 1: Arizona and Arizona State -- 39 percent

There's no doubt this selection is inflated a bit by the attractiveness of the candidates, so I'm not wholly surprised at the results, but it's good to see I'm not the only one who thinks bringing in the Arizona schools would be a huge move for the league. Like I've said all along, it's far from a sure thing, but there's certainly a foreseeable scenario that brings both teams in the league.

If we see Oklahoma, Texas or someone else get left out of the national title game or complaints about the nine-game schedule become common, expansion will be brought up in earnest. That timing would likely have to be before new television contract for first-tier rights, but if the Big 12 can sit down with television execs like it did last summer and pass the findings along to UA and ASU -- i.e., "You can make more money in the Big 12 than in the Pac-12" -- I could see the Arizona schools, who joined the Pac-12 in 1978, hopping over to the Big 12.

I'm definitely not betting on it, and ultimately, the alumni links to California (sound familiar, eh, Colorado?) will probably be too much to overcome. But if expansion exploration becomes a reality, the Big 12 would be making a mistake if it didn't at least gauge the Arizona schools' interest.

No. 2: Brigham Young and Air Force -- 28 percent

The two so-called "national brands" came in at second. The freedom of the Big 12's third-tier rights would be welcomed by BYU, which already has its own network, and Air Force could be another solid addition with a national following for obvious reasons. The Cougars sound pretty committed to independence, and have a TV deal of their own with ESPN, but they'd definitely have to take a long look at committing to a league if the Big 12 wanted it. It'd be a big move geographically -- Air Force is in Colorado and BYU is in Utah -- but if it came down to it, inviting both of these programs would be a solid move.

Most hilarious suggestion for the Big 12 this weekend? Keep it at 10 teams, but kick Iowa State out and bring in BYU. Yeah, I'm sure that would work.

No. 3: TCU and Houston -- 25 percent

I honestly thought these two would run away with the poll, but I'm proud of all you voters. Finally, it looks like you're paying attention. Unlike the first two options, neither program here adds a lot more than their proximity to the Big 12, and as such, these are the names I hear the most from readers.

No. 4: Louisville and Cincinnati -- 9 percent

No love for the Big East? I was shocked this number was that low. When I guessed the results of the poll, I had TCU and Houston hauling in about 40 percent of the vote, and the other three with an even distribution somewhere between 25 and 15 percent. Not so. I'm not entirely sure why the number was this low -- no respect for the Big East? Not that it deserves any -- but Cincinnati's football program is on the rise, and Louisville is obviously a solid program in the two revenue-producing sports.

So that's that: An interesting exercise. I appreciate the feedback. Obviously, these polls aren't scientific, but it does give me a sense of what the fans actually want to see. I've gotten plenty from you already, but we'll look at a few of your other suggestions later this week. There's still time to slip those into my mailbag.