The Big 12 does a 180 on conference expansion.

Not even two weeks ago, we heard Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione proclaim that Big 12 conference expansion was dead.

“There aren’t any signs that we’ll talk anymore about expansion for a little while,” Castiglione added. “We don’t have a timeline on it.”

Eh, who needs timelines?

In the span of one afternoon, the Big 12 all but decided to change the very nature of its conference and shake up the entire college sports universe for the foreseeable future.

The conference of One True Champion is about to undergo One True Expansion.

Following a meeting of Big 12 presidents here on Tuesday, Oklahoma President David Boren announced that Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been authorized to engage schools interested in joining the Big 12 and said the league could grow by as many as four teams.

That’s quite the reversal.  Hope none of them suffered whiplash.

The tripping point appears to be the deal the ACC cut earlier this week with ESPN to establish its own network.

But the momentum changed Monday when ESPN reported that the ACC would soon announce a partnership on a new cable network and had agreed to a so-called “grant of rights” locking in its members for the next 20 years.

That means more money for the ACC, more stability and more of a threat to the Big 12 should another league — say, the Big Ten — consider expansion again the next decade.  [Emphasis added.]

I know people are focusing on the money — the Big 12’s current TV deals call for the per-school payouts to increase proportionally with the number of new members added, while nothing requires the conference to turn around and pay full shares to those new members (and it sure won’t), so there’s some short-term profit built into expansion — but it’s the ACC locking its members down financially and taking Notre Dame off the table, too, that’s got to have the Big 12 nervous.  P5 college football exists in an eat or be eaten world, and the Big 12 presidents have apparently decided they’re better off taking on lesser programs rather than sitting exposed waiting for the Big Ten and SEC to siphon off the cream.

Will it work?  Who knows?  As a reminder, this is what the likely list of candidates looks like today:

The leaders in the clubhouse for Big 12 expansion remain BYU, Cincinnati and Connecticut. The next tier includes South Florida, Central Florida, Memphis, Colorado State, Houston, Boise State and Tulane. If the league does add four schools, there’s really no standout candidate for that fourth slot. (Houston has the best program and television market of available schools, but there’s still some hesitancy within the state of Texas to allow the Cougars to use the Big 12 to potentially leap over current members). Schools like Temple, San Diego State and Northern Illinois don’t really have a chance, but will give it a shot anyway.

How you take four schools from that bunch escapes me.  But I’m not as sharp as Bob Bowlsby.

The other thing I don’t get is Texas’ angle.  What do the Longhorns get out of conference expansion that they don’t already enjoy?  Remember, this is a program that had no problem sniffing around for a deal with the then Pac-10 a few years ago and conceivably would find plenty of interested partners if it chose to shop around tomorrow for a more stable home.

The problem the Big 12 has is that it is a small scale representation of college football’s larger haves/have nots problem, with wealthy programs like Oklahoma and Texas at the top and smaller set ups like Iowa State at the bottom.  From a survival standpoint, the small fry need conference expansion a lot more than the big boys do.

I don’t know if what the Big 12 has in mind is going to have much of an impact on conference expansion in general, although I suppose that between the ACC’s deal and what the Big 12 has put on the table, if you’re Delany or Sankey with any thoughts of grabbing a few tasty morsels for your own banquet, there may not be a better time than now to grab a plate.  On the other hand, if Big 12 expansion turns out to be a flop, you might be able to negotiate better terms with a Texas or Oklahoma needing a safe place to land quickly.

In any event, it’s not hard to predict a few awkward moments are coming.



Filed under Big 12 Football

36 responses to “The Big 12 does a 180 on conference expansion.

  1. sUGArdaddy

    They are in a bit of a conundrum, but they could at least hit a double with the right teams. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want Boise St. I’d jump at Boise St. (name brand), Colorado St. (new stadium/good young coach) and BYU (strong, historic national program). That would instantly give you a western set of rivals.

    I don’t know why you wouldn’t want Houston. To me, even if it ‘weakens’ the Texas schools, they’re much better than Memphis or Central Florida. Their rub is that there just aren’t any natural rivals out there for WVU for them to snatch up, making travel still treacherous for them.

    You’d essentially have North and South Divisions:

    Colorado St.
    Iowa St.
    Kansas St.


    But, I’m sure whatever way they go won’t make that much sense. I’m all for this. Would like to see the Pac-12 add 2 teams and get all the big conferences up to 14 teams. That’s 70 teams that have a legit shot of making it, and it would probably lead to more conferences going to 9 games.

    The problem with all of this is that they conferences don’t work together for what is best long term. It’s a much better plan for Boise and BYU to go to the Pac-12 geographically and then the Big-12 take Memphis and Central Florida. But, I’m certain of this, they won’t ask my opinion.


    • I don’t know why you wouldn’t want Houston. To me, even if it ‘weakens’ the Texas schools…

      You just answered your own question.


      • sUGArdaddy

        Yeah, I know, but I think they put too much stock in that. But it doesn’t matter what I think.

        Houston offers the Houston area kids the chance to play in a big-time conference at home other than the SEC (and go to nearby A&M), and I’m one that believes rivals are what make it. This TV market stuff is mostly stupid.

        Give me 20 years of UT and Houston battling it out in stadiums where the home fans don’t like the other. That’s good TV, and that passion spills onto the field and screen.

        I like playing Bama and LSU, but there is a different feeling when Auburn, UT and Tech come to town. Great rivalries make for great TV.


        • PTC DAWG

          The TV market stuff is most certainly real.


        • The TV stuff is not stupid. It is how you sell your product to sponsors, because some marketing execs and media buyers prefer to evaluate their buy via data points and not their affinity for a particular sport.

          I heard a stat today on Sirius XM that 6 of the 10 most watched regular season college football games in the Houston DMA were SEC games. The other four in the top 10 were Big 12 games (2) and Houston games (2.) The Big 12 does not control the Houston DMA so adding the Cougars makes sense for the Big 12 despite the fact that it is in Texas with Houston, Baylor, etc.

          It may not be bringing new eyeballs but certainly can help try to take them back.


      • stoopnagle

        Here’s an angle: Houston is traditionally an A&M town. Especially the roughneck side of the city – I can’t speak as well for the westside.

        Texas could look at raising UH’s profile to eat into A&M’s strengths. If I were UH, that’s how I’d be selling this to the people in Austin. And I mean all the people: the UT folks and the folks in the legislature. I’d be putting the press on a la Va Tech-to-the-ACC back in the day.

        TCU and Baylor only count with the conference. Texas is who needs to be convinced and if you can convince them it’s bad for the Aggies, you’d make a lot of hay.


    • Greg

      I still don’t see how the Big 12 is a long-term solution for West Virginia. No natural regional rivals in the conference and their travel expenses must be outrageous. Then again, where else are they going to go?


  2. ToccoaDog

    This may be what escalates the timing for the enevitable 4 conferences of 16 teams each. With the SEC, Big10, and new ACC deal, that’s gonna leave either the Big12 or Pac10 out of the party. SEC may be proactive and go after Oklahoma and one other, then let Pac10 deal with Texas and whoever is left.


  3. Mdcgtp

    The resolution of have/have not question is basically existential to college football as we currently know it. Quite frankly, I struggle to reach an acceptable conclusion. Every time I read the words Florida Atlantic or Arkansas st., or Norh Texas I can’t help but wonder what are these people thinking. Why are they throwing good money after bad in effort to build a football program that is “competitive” at the highest classification of college football? The probability of sustained success is remote at best. A good coach will leave, and while that can be profitable for an AD who includes expensive buyouts, it leaves Arkansas st with an adverse retention problem. Good coaches leave, but they are stuck with the bad ones.

    As a fan, I hate subsidizing this nonsense with cupcake games that are essentially meaningless. While Vandy and UK’s football programs are probably not much better that those cupcakes, they offer benefits to the conference in other sports.

    Nonetheless, the current situation is a disequilibrium that can’t persist over the long term. Either the elite of the P5 break away and have their own classification and post season, which reduces the financial commitment that these marginal schools because they will cease their pursuit of a prominent football program. OR the P5 end up paying a lot more for cannon fodder, and the B12 expansion is simply an internalization of that process.


    • stoopnagle

      We’ll see how it goes for Idaho. If moving down works for them financially, it might prove attractive some of the schools you mention.


  4. Scrambledawg

    IMO, the more likely scenario is OU + 1 joining the SEC , Texas joining the Pac 12 w BYU the rest falling by the wayside and a “Power 4” shaping up. Each P4 champ goes to the playoffs and 4 at large teams are added.


  5. The other Doug

    Aight. I’m gonna read y’all the tea leaves…

    Oklahoma and or Texas is talking to another conference.
    If Okie or Texas leaves the conference can’t continue with only 9 teams.
    It’s better to enlarge the conference now, so you are seen as viable if one of the two leave.

    Let’s be honest, they aren’t a Power 5 conference without Oklahoma and Texas, but bless their hearts they think they can with quantity over quality.


    • Macallanlover

      True, the Commish may have a majority vote to go ahead and look for new members but Texas and OU have options the others don’t if they don’t like the new deal. I think they would prefer to remain the big fish in that little pond, but Texas has that big ego, Longhorn network deal which will not fly with other major leagues and OU has to stay hooked up with Ok State. I think they like the role of bullying the others and feeling needed too much to leave. They will fight for what they want but stay in that conference. If this all leads to four 16-team power conferences (please, I beg you!) everyone will reset geographically and realign anyway. This almost happened three years ago and Texas not leaving was probably the only thing that blocked it from going down.


  6. Macallanlover

    Listening to all the gurus yesterday speculating on this, and everyone feels it will be before next season, Thinking is they have first shot now and may need to go to 14 in case the SEC and/or Delany’s conference goes to sixteen. Cincy seems to be the unanimous pick whether they go with two ,or four new members. Speculation on “next up” after Cincy varies from UCF, USF, Boise, BYU, then Houston or Memphis. While Houston would hurt recruiting some, there is fear that Houston would be an SEC target if they expand to 16 and that might be worse for recruiting and this might be used as a defensive move. Memphis seems to have the least appeal for all the conferences.

    There was also some discussion of Arkansas wanting to move back toward their old rivals as they still feel like an outsider in the SEC. There is a sizable piece of the Hog fan base that has been pushing this for several years and this opportunity will activate them. Would cost them some money but is a much more comfortable fit. (Kind of like taking a lesser job but makes you happier.)

    No question the ACC deal turned this, and not all schools are in favor but Bowlsby now has the go ahead to move. Timing is important as the PAC12 may also feel the need to add. Indications were the Big12 is leaning more to expansion eastward over going out West. There are about 60 schools calling the Big 12 offices today, this is a big opportunity for those who want a Power 5 affiliation and the doors may close soon.


    • Mayor

      I, for one, would be happy as a pig in mud (pun intended) if the Razorbacks went to the Big 12. That would leave the SEC with beaucoups options to replace them and might even trigger a move to 16 teams by the SEC which is where the conference should be going anyway. Add OU and Okie State to the SEC West and a team from the ACC to the SEC East then move a West team to the East and it’s done. In fact you could move Auburn and Bama to the East and move Mizzou to the West.


  7. Otto

    If I were the Big12 I would be packing my bags to FSU doing everything I could to get them in, and be willing to take Miami if it made the deal easier. It would be a bad scenario for the ACC as well as the SEC if they succeed.


    • PTC DAWG

      New ACC contract basically makes that impossible.


      • Otto

        Agreed and I hope so. I don’t remember the exacts but if an ACC team leaves now they owe the ACC a load of money.

        I like the SEC being the only conf with teams in 2 of the top 3 talent producing states.


  8. MGW

    What good is a new tv market if you’re not giving them anything worth watching?

    Just kidding we know they don’t give a damn about that.


  9. Michael

    It would be amusing if the B12 expanded as an attempt to preserve the league, but its two most prominent members (Texas and Oklahoma) exposed expansion and ended up leaving because of it. I’m sure the Big Ten would love to have them, as they would bring a massive new market, they would help the league’s biggest problem (relatively limited recruiting base), and it would balance out the divisions by adding two top ten programs (historically speaking and also in terms of revenue) to the currently-weak B1G West. The potential stumbling blocks:

    Texas and Oklahoma are subject to a reservation of rights through 2025, although I suppose there are questions as to whether those agreements are enforceable.
    Does Oklahoma have to bring Oklahoma State with it? Does Texas have to bring any of its in-state programs?

    Ultimately, I want the B12 to cease to exist so we can have a four-team playoff made up of the four conference champions. For those of us who don’t like the idea of a larger playoff, that would be an ideal result.


  10. Sh3rl0ck

    Adding 2-4 mediocre teams will have no bearing on whether or not the SEC and PAC12 will desire OU and UT. If the SEC and / or PAC12 decide to expand, the only question is how many teams get poached?

    Adding 2-4 teams now only increases the chance that the BigXII can poach teams from the MWC and AAC instead of being absorbed by the other two. If UT or OU want out, the dominoes will fall.

    If they want stability, they need to lock down media right long-term ala the ACC. Expansion does nothing to help that.


  11. MGW

    Houston, BYU, Boise State, Colorado State, Tulane. In that order of preference. SMU isn’t mentioned but would also be decent. Maybe Rice. Could make for better football to watch. Really just anybody in the actual southwest. Obviously it’ll be the up north or Florida schools, though. TV markets trump TV quality every time.

    Texas/USF (or whoever) will make UGA/Mizzou look like the damn WLOCP by comparison.


  12. GATA

    Go with Memphis, just for the pre-game meal. Just think about catering from the ‘Vous or Corky’s….This is a no brainer….


  13. 1) BYU – national eyeballs
    2) Houston – if UH has any political clout in Texas, they will sell out to make this happen (maybe they don’t, look at them now)
    3) Central Florida – very big school in huge market
    4) Memphis – thanks to FedEx


  14. RocketDawg

    I would like to see the SEC grab Oklahoma and Okie State and see Texas go to the Pac-12.

    With OU and OSU the SEC goes to 4 team pods with the following break down:

    SEC West-OU/Ok St/Arkansas/Missouri
    SEC South-LSU/Texas A&M/Ole Miss/Miss St
    SEC North-UT/UK/Bama/Auburn
    SEC East-UGA/UF/Vandy/S.Carolina

    Play everyone in your pod-3 conference games
    Permanent rival from each pod-3 conference games
    Rotate playing every other pod-3 conference games
    Return regular season to 11 games. Allows for one OOC and one cupcake game
    Pod winners play for a chance to go to SECCG

    Teams would rotate on and off schedules at a much quicker rate than the current set up while preserving cross divisional rivalries we have now


    • Mayor

      RD, I like your teams in the 4 pods but would have the West and South together in one division and the North and East together in the other. Two 8 team divisions.


      • RocketDawg

        If you had two 8 team divisions it would take forever to cycle through the other division even if you go to 9 conference games and eliminate permanent cross division rivals. With the pod set up a player that stayed 4 years would play against every team in the league at least once. As it is now we have players who have never played Texas A&M or Miss St and will play Ole Miss for the first time since 2012 this year. IMO that is too long between teams that are in your conference