Has the Big 12 decided it wants to move ahead with expansion?
In a conference call Tuesday afternoon with Oklahoma president David Boren and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the conference announced it had unanimously given Bowlsby the go-ahead to evaluate candidates for expansion. While Boren mentioned the expansion process as a “forward step,” it was clear that the conference was ready to expand.
“I think it’s a statement from the board that we want to move forward,” Boren said. “We’ve had discussion of the attributes of some of those schools that have come to us and expressed interest. And that we want to move forward and have a full evaluation of exactly the level of their interest, what kind of proposals they might make to us in terms of terms and conditions for joining the conference.”
The rustling you hear is schools like Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis and others frantically preparing their best pitches for consideration by the conference.
The Big 12 may not simply expand back to 12, either. Per the phone call, the conference could be open to adding four teams to make a 14-team league. If the Big 12 was to go to 14, the Pac-12 would be the only 12-team Power Five conference.
Not too long ago it seemed the conference was willing to table the idea of expansion for the time being. But some news from Tuesday morning might have changed the minds’ of the conference’s members. Given all of the discussion surrounding expansion, it doesn’t feel like it would take much to sway the conference one way or another regarding the topic.
“But [the ACC Network] does indicate to us that we are continuing to operate in an environment that is filled with change, even over the period of a few days a matter can change,” Boren said. “And we felt the need to receive an update from our consultants, including their best advice on what the impact of any ACC agreement with media partners might have on our conference.
With a television network on its ledger, the ACC would have revenue streams that come close to the ones the Big Ten and SEC have with their networks. Plus, the Pac-12 has one too. Did the Big 12 see it could be left behind without a bigger conference?
Boren and Bowlsby also made it apparent throughout their teleconference that they wanted to be enticed by those schools who want to be members of the conference.
“It will be an ongoing process,” Bowlsby said. “We’re just finished with the meeting and I don’t know that I’m prepared to put a timeframe on it right now. But we intend to be active very soon. We have been contacted by a number of institutions and my guess is that after this news breaks we’ll be contacted by them again.
“There likely will be a two-stage process of some sort that will involve some preliminary work and then a secondary process as well that gets into a little more of a, perhaps even a fact-finding but also a negotiation change.”
The Big 12 has also made it clear there are provisions in its current television contract that would allow it to renegotiate with ESPN and Fox if it expanded. Teams in the conference would not be in favor of expanding if they had to split the current television contract with more teams.
“Obviously we’re looking at the strength of the athletic programs, their competitiveness. We’re looking at the fan base, we’re looking at access to media markets. And also we’re very much looking at the reputations of these institutions for integrity. We’re looking at the academic standards of these universities, the level of research and teaching at these institutions.
Spoke w/several sources about Big 12 expansion. Everyone in play. Best quote: “Cincinnati leader in clubhouse but we don’t have a clubhouse"
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 19, 2016
The conference recently said it was adding a title game starting in 2017 and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops noted the financial impact of that decision in his remarks Tuesday. You can bet expansion has a lot to do with revenue as well.
“I think for the right reasons [a championship game] is the right thing to do,” Stoops said. “It’s been talked a lot about, primarily the 13th data point and primarily also everybody gets an extra $3 million. That’s significant.”
Boren and Bowlsby also said they were satisfied with the explanation Baylor gave them in a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
“We were assured of the university’s commitment to keep the conference apprised of what was going on as we move forward,” Boren said. “… Questions and answers were received and I would say we were very pleased, not only by the commitment of president [David] Garland but also by the assurance that he has the support of the board represented today by its chairman of the committee and as well as the chairman of the board.”
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