HOUSTON (AP) – Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby says he is confident the conference’s university presidents will make progress on their exploration of expansion by the time they meet in mid-October.
But Bowlsby, speaking before the game between No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 15 Houston at NRG Stadium, had little to say about where the Big 12 stands as it considers adding schools to the 10-team league. Houston is among the schools being considered by the Big 12.
A person with direct knowledge of the situation told the AP on Friday the Big 12 had narrowed its candidates to 11 and meetings with those schools would be held next week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conference is not making its work on expansion public.
Bowlsby would not confirm those meetings. The Big 12 announced in July the presidents and chancellors had given Bowlsby the go-ahead to start gathering information on potential candidates for expansion. The conference has said it will consider adding two or four teams, but has not committed to expanding.
“I don’t have a vote,” Bowlsby said. “That’s at the behest of the presidents and chancellors. I am confident they will make progress (by Oct. 17).”
Big 12 officials are expected to meet with BYU, Air Force, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Colorado State, Houston, Rice, SMU, South Florida and Tulane.
Houston is one of five American Athletic Conference schools on that list. The Cougars won the AAC last season and beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl to finish 13-1.
Bowlsby and American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco attended a dinner held by game organizers on Friday night. Aresco and Bowlsby said they did not discuss expansion at the dinner.
“Prior to that he did say he would try to give me a heads up on timetable and how many teams they might be ultimately looking at,” Aresco said.
Aresco said he has heard from some members of his conference that are involved in the process, but that he has promised those schools confidentiality.
Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek said during halftime that he had not met with Bowlsby. He declined to say if Houston officials would be meeting with Big 12 officials.
“I don’t know that it feels like an audition, but I’m glad we’ve got this opportunity today,” Yurachek said.
Yurachek noted that when the school gave Cougars coach Tom Herman a new contract that paid him $3 million per year after last season, the deal also included a one-time $5 million bonus if Houston joins a Power Five conference while he is coach.
– By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP Sports Writer
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