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What would Big 12 expansion mean for AAC, C-USA, Southern Miss?

Southern Miss linebacker Elijah Parker tries to block the pass of Old Dominion quarterback Shuler Bentley on Nov. 21, 2015 in Hattiesburg. Both USM and ODU could be candidates for the American Athletic Conference if it needs to bolster its membership.
Southern Miss linebacker Elijah Parker tries to block the pass of Old Dominion quarterback Shuler Bentley on Nov. 21, 2015 in Hattiesburg. Both USM and ODU could be candidates for the American Athletic Conference if it needs to bolster its membership. ttisbell@sunherald.com

It would be surprising if the Big 12 doesn't expand considering everything that was said Tuesday in Dallas as part of the conference's football media days.

Members of the conference have told commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin evaluating the league's expansion options. The conference could add 2-4 programs with some joining as early as 2017.

The conference most likely to feel the brunt of Big 12 expansion is the American Athletic Conference.

Cincinnati seems like the most likely program to move from the AAC to the Big 12, but Houston, Central Florida, Memphis, UConn and South Florida are all sure to gain serious consideration. Out west, BYU and Colorado State seem like the most attractive targets.

So what does all this mean for Southern Miss and the rest of the Conference USA?

It certainly creates an opportunity for multiple C-USA programs if the AAC loses three or more programs. If the AAC loses one, it may mean a chance for a single C-USA school. If the AAC loses two schools, it may sit still at 10 members.

If you're a USM supporter, you're hoping that the Big 12 takes a big bite out of the AAC by taking three or more programs. There's no sure thing that USM is at the top of the AAC list if it loses a single member.

If the AAC is in search of three or more members, the Golden Eagles can be a serious candidate.

As I reported in March, USM athletic director Bill McGillis has made an effort to put the school in a good position with the AAC. He traveled to Orlando for the AAC basketball tournament this season.

The AAC's best options if it needs to reload are: Old Dominion, Southern Miss, Texas-San Antonio, Rice, Marshall, UMass and Florida Atlantic.

ODU hits a lot of the marks as far as market size and athletic budget, but the Monarchs' football program is still trying to find its way on the FBS level.

USM and Marshall both offer dedicated fan bases and winning football programs.

Rice is a prestigious academic institution that could be added if the AAC loses the Houston market.

UMass brings a good basketball program and a nice market.

UTSA and FAU offer little more than decent football facilities and good markets.

Big 12 expansion seems inevitable. It’s just a matter of waiting to see where the pieces fall.

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