Matt Vautour: Big 12 championship vote could shape UMass’ future

Last modified: Friday, January 01, 2016
UMass won’t likely be mentioned at the Jan. 15 meeting that could play a role in determining its future.

On that day, the heads of college football’s 10 Bowl Subdivision conferences will vote on the Big 12’s proposal to eliminate the rule that requires a league to have 12 teams for it to host a conference championship game.

The Big 12, which has 10 schools, thinks a title game would: A. Make money. B. Help its top teams improve their chances for making the College Football Playoffs. The Big 12 wasn’t represented in last year’s playoffs and many people believed that a conference championship game might have pushed either Baylor or TCU into the field.

If the proposal is defeated, which is possible, the Big 12 is much more likely to add two teams. UMass would NOT be one of those teams. The Minutemen have as good a chance of being invited to join the Bundesliga right now as they do the Big 12.

But Big 12 expansion would start the dominoes.

Sports Illustrated.com speculated that the Big 12’s most likely targets would be BYU, which is independent, and Cincinnati, which is in the American Athletic Conference.

If the AAC loses one team it will likely add another. That would pretty much be UMass’ ideal situation. The American has always been UMass’ dream landing spot.

But there’s no guarantee the Big 12 would take the Bearcats. Colorado State, Boise State and maybe even UConn could be considered.

There’s no guarantee UMass would be offered if the AAC had vacancy. The Minutemen are in a weaker position than they were four years ago. The team hasn’t been successful and people haven’t shown up. McGuirk Stadium is better, but still substandard.

The UMass men’s basketball program would likely be an asset to the AAC, but the school’s upper administrators would have to convince the league that the football program can be more than it’s been so far. If there isn’t a plan on how to pitch the AAC, school officials better get one ready. If history is any indication, this stuff happens fast.

MY TOP 10 — 1. Michigan State, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Kansas, 4. Maryland, 5. Virginia, 6. Xavier, 7. North Carolina, 8. Providence, 9. Iowa State, 10. Arizona.

For the rest of my Top 25, visit the College Hoop Week Guide on GazetteNET.com’s UMass Sports Blog.

GAMES OF THE WEEK: No. 11 Iowa State at No. 3 Oklahoma, 7 p.m. ESPN2; No. 23 Baylor at No. 2 Kansas, 4 p.m. CBS — The Big 12 is blasting out of the gate with two marquee games Saturday. The Cyclones, Sooners and Jayhawks are potential Final Four teams, and Baylor could climb into contention.

No. 9 Butler at No. 6 Xavier, 1 p.m. Saturday — The two former Atlantic 10 schools are vying for early supremacy in the Big East.

ATLANTIC 10 GAME OF THE WEEK: Arkansas at Dayton, 8 p.m. Wednesday — The Flyers get last year’s leading scorer Dyshawn Pierre back after he was suspended for the first semester. Dayton was 9-2 without him. Adding another SEC win — the Flyers already beat Alabama and Vanderbilt — would give them momentum heading into league play.

FINAL FOUR BOUND — Oklahoma, Michigan State, Maryland, Virginia.

BUZZER BEATER ... A year ago, the Big East opened its league slate with five games on New Year’s Eve, all on FoxSports1. It was fun and felt like the start of a fun tradition. Chinese food, Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery watching balls drop while waiting for the ball to drop.

Instead of watching bad New Year’s Eve TV marathons like Ridiculousness (MTV), Caribbean Life (HGTV), the First 48 (A&E), Cops (Spike) and Drunk History (Comedy Central), fans got Georgetown at Xavier, Creighton at Providence, Butler at Villanova, etc.

It’s disappointing that it’s not continuing. There are only three games Thursday, all in the afternoon. Two — No. 6 Xavier at No. 12 Villanova, noon; and Creighton at St. John’s, 2 p.m. — are on FS1. The other — No. 12 Providence at No. 9 Butler, 2:30 p.m. — is on CBS SportsNet. Nothing at night.

Perhaps the prospect of crossing swords again with the College Football Playoffs was too much for these non-football playing schools.

Information from personal interviews, newspaper articles and sports information releases was used in this report.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage