With SMU rolling out $150 million in athletic facilities upgrades, talk is heating up about the prospects of it and other schools joining the Big 12.
In the short time since it was revealed that the Big 12 will explore the possibility of adding two to four universities, there are signs of competition among schools. One aspect that is being frequently analyzed by observers in the quality of facilities, and which schools are either planning or can already claim to have the resources to compete in the Big 12.
The announcement from SMU is part of this trend. SMU is committing to a project that will enhance several areas of its athletic program, including plans for a new soccer stadium and an indoor performance center that will be utilized by football and track. (We covered the soccer side of this on our sister site, Soccer Stadium Digest.)
While SMU officials downplay the connection between the school’s plan and its desire to join the Big 12, they acknowledge that the project could bolster its case. More from SportsDay:
“It’s not reacting to the Big 12,” athletic director Rick Hart said. “We’ve been working on this for 18 months in terms of analyzing design plans. The board has given its blessing. We had been working on the announcement for about six weeks.”
Still, the school understands the enormity of Big 12 membership. No other “power five” conference is better suited for SMU. Joining the Big 12 would more than hasten the return on the investment.
Hart said that announcing major facilities enhancements on the heels of the Big 12’s expansion unveiling “doesn’t hurt. We get it. If it makes a difference, great. It’s not like we just threw it out there.”
Of course, SMU is one of many schools vying to join the Big 12, and some can already offer state-of-the-art stadiums. Colorado State, for instance, is one of several Mountain West Conference Schools already contemplating a switch, and can hinge part of its case on a new stadium that will open in 2017.
If Colorado State or another university from its ranks were to make the jump, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson believes that other schools would compete for the chance to join his conference. More from Pokes Authority:
“I’ve heard directly from several of those institutions,” he said. “I appreciate those in the Mountain West that have informed me of such. There’s others that haven’t but have in fact expressed an interest in looking at Big 12 membership.”
Thompson also said a handful of schools have reached out to him about joining the Mountain West. That’s a possibility for the conference, even if it doesn’t lose any members, he said.
“This membership-slash-expansion door swings both ways,” Thompson said.
Keep in mind that as this process plays out, schools that are already in the Big 12 will be upping the ante when it comes to facilities. At Texas Tech, a project to add loge seating to Jones AT&T Stadium is slated to be complete in time for the upcoming season, while a new $48 million practice facility is set to finished next year.
As Big 12 talks continue over the coming weeks, expect more talk and discussion about how facilities are going to come into play.
Rendering courtesy SMU.
RELATED STORIES: Teams Vying for Big 12 Entry