Big 12 takes conference expansion off the table
The Big 12 is staying at 10 schools.
After three months of analyzing and interviewing schools that could possibly join the conference, Big 12 leaders took expansion off the table. “This was not a decision to not expand,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said; “this was an endorsement and reinvestment in the 10 that we had.”
A matter of money
This decision makes the past three months look like a massive waste of time and money. During that period, Big 12 officials interviewed Houston, Air Force, Colorado State, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida, SMU, Tulane, Rice and BYU.
The interviews alone were obviously time-consuming. If that was all, it would be excusable. However, more teams in the conference would mean more money all around. At first, discussions of a Big 12 Network for more television money abounded. When that didn’t happen, the focus shifted to getting more money from the conference’s current television partners by adding a championship game.
It soon became apparent that ESPN and FOX would only agree to a new deal for the Big 12 championship game if expansion went away. Officials weren’t about to piss off ESPN and FOX – so they kissed expansion goodbye.
Oklahoma President David Boren has said before that the Big 12 is “psychologically disadvantaged” as the smallest Power Five league, and the only one without a football championship game. Well, it’s still going to be the smallest Power Five league – but the addition of a championship game, and the revenue that brings, will certainly help. And who knows, expansion could be reintroduced at a future point in time.
With the Big 12’s history, all this shouldn’t be surprising. However, four schools have left the conference since 2010, including Texas A&M and Nebraska – and if one more leaves (say, Texas or Oklahoma goes to the Big Ten or SEC), the league will be dead.
So, yeah, the Big 12 is psychologically disadvantaged – but its problems go even deeper than that.