Iowa State president reveals the timeline for possible Big 12 expansion

BY foxsports • November 15, 2016

One of the 10 university presidents with a vote on Big 12 expansion said Wednesday he believes the conference will ultimately add new schools – but the process may drag out even longer than anticipated.

Iowa State president Steven Leath, answering questions from staffers of the Iowa State Daily in a meeting streamed on Facebook Live, said, “I think you’ll see a different Big 12 in the somewhat near future.”

Asked by sports editor Luke Manderfeld to clarify whether that means he expects the board to proceed with expansion, Leath said, “That would be my expectation.”

“The sentiment of the [presidents] was, let’s take a serious look and see who’s out there, who wants to join,” he said. “We’re spending a lot of time and money to that end, so I suspect that’s where we’re going to end up.”

As for a timeline, Leath said the process of deciding whether to add two schools, four schools are none at all will be hammered out “between now and Christmas.”

During a July 19 board meeting, the Big 12 presidents directed commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin vetting schools with interest in joining the conference. Since then, both Bowlsby and the presidents have largely gone silent on the issue publically, save for a tweet from Texas president Gregory Fenves expressing support for Houston.

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that 20 interested schools are expected to make presentations to the conference.

“Those schools that are seriously interested are going to the Big 12 office, meeting with the commissioner and really making a pitch why we should seriously consider them,” said Leath.

Asked which criteria the presidents are evaluating, Leath mentioned academics, athletics, television markets and also, “How they behave. What is their history of playing by the rules?”

That might not bode well for one commonly mentioned expansion candidate, UCF, which the NCAA sanctioned in 2012 for recruiting violations in football and men’s basketball.

Leath also addressed recent concerns by LGBT advocacy groups over BYU’s possible inclusion, saying, “If we get to considering BYU seriously, that will be a topic that comes up.”

In an Aug. 8 letter to Bowlsby co-signed by 25 LGBT advocacy groups, Athlete Ally urged the conference to drop BYU from consideration due to the school’s Honor Code, by which students can be suspended or expelled for engaging in a same-sex relationship.

“I’m getting considerable input on both sides of the issue,” said Leath, referring to emails he’s received. "It’s a school of integrity, they play by the rules, quality program, and people that have been there had great experiences and we should consider BYU. I’m getting an equal number that send me their Honor Code, their [discomfort] with a number of their social issues. And then there’s a smaller group that says from a logistical standpoint, the fact they can’t compete on Sundays, the complexity especially of schools as far as away as West Virginia make it unworkable.

“I’m getting more input from individuals on BYU than any other school.”

Leath, Iowa State’s president since 2012, also serves as the Big 12’s representative on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.

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