Lyons on Big 12 expansion: “From top to bottom, I think we’ll be a very strong conference”

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October 31 2021 11:59 pm

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The recent wave of expansion in the Big 12 Conference happened quickly and unexpectedly, but WVU’s top athletics official believes that the league will remain competitive when its four newcomers ultimately join. 

Last month, the Big 12 announced the addition of four new members: BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston. Each of those schools will bolster competition in the league when they arrive as early as July 2023, according to WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons. 

“Competitively, from top to bottom, I think we’ll be a very strong conference,” Lyons said. 

In a recent exclusive interview for The Neal Brown Show, Lyons outlined what each newcomer will bring to the Big 12, including a greater presence in rich recruiting areas in Florida and Texas, a historic football program in BYU and a surging Cincinnati program that recently knocked off Notre Dame and climbed into the top five in the AP poll. 

Plus, Lyons said the same four additions will create a “great league” for basketball. 

The ripples of Big 12 expansion began over the summer when Texas and Oklahoma announced a joint move to the SEC, which will be completed by the summer of 2025. That move caught the rest of the league by surprise, including commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who said a week prior that the possibility of a new wave of conference realignment is “not one of the things that keeps me up at night.” 

When the Big 12 began its initial expansion conversations in August, Lyons thought league officials needed to “slow down” and consider their options, but thanks to some “homework” that group had done in previous years, the league was able to quickly lock in those four new programs. 

“The four schools we added — Cincinnati, Central Florida, Houston and BYU — were clearly the frontrunners as we moved forward,” Lyons said. “So then we moved forward, and it was like, the whole discussion if we don’t act now would be the instability of the conference, so we just felt that we needed to take action immediately, which we did, and I think we have four great schools that are very competitive that we’ll add as early as July 2023.” 

Lyons has served as WVU’s director of athletics since 2015. He currently chairs the Division I Council and Division I Football Oversight Committee, playing a major role in guiding top college football programs through the pandemic season in 2020. 

He also has been appointed to the NCAA’s Constitution Committee, which has been tasked with overhauling the association’s governance model.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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