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Report: Texas pressure is holding up Big 12 expansion

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A desire to keep the Longhorn Network intact may be the driving force behind the Texas desire to keep the conference at 10 teams.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As the story goes, the Texas Longhorns are the big bully of the Big 12, forcing other schools to depart the conference out of arrogance and avarice and effectively giving the nine other members of the league a giant swirly by forcing their collective third-tier rights into the departing toilet water due to the existence of the Longhorn Network.

The thing is, if a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer is accurate, there may be some truth to the stereotype -- with a super majority of eight schools needed to vote in favor of expansion from 10 schools, Texas is pressuring TCU and Texas Tech to withhold votes, leaving the conference one vote short of reaching that necessary 75-percent threshold.

The reasoning? There's a supposed reluctance to expand because it could further pressure the Longhorns to give up the Longhorn Network. According to sources, league-wide pressure to fold the LHN into a conference network that went public in the form of comments from the Oklahoma president and Oklahoma State head football Mike Gundy would even result in Texas continuing to earn more money than the rest of the schools.

Texas athletic director Mike Perrin only has a contact through the 2017-18 academic year, but will be a key figure in this debate. When asked about the Longhorn Network's future back in early March, Perrin declined comment.

What is the latest in that regard? Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls recently shared his thoughts:

I still see no willingness on Texas' part to fold the Longhorn Network into a Big 12 network, even if the league gives the Longhorns an extra $15 million share to cover its LHN income, because, the Texas source said, "we would get the same money, but lose our branding and having our own channel? Not very compelling. If we get rid of LHN, it will be to change conferences, in my opinion."

On Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby made public the findings of Navigate Research, which was investigating the impact not having a conference championship game has on the league's chancing of making the College Football Playoffs. The Chicago-based firm concluded that the Big 12 could increase its chances of making the final four teams by 4-5 percent by expanding back to 12, adding a conference championship game, and going back to eight conference games.

As SB Nation pointed out, the results are rather laughable given that the sample size is two and any analysis of the private methods of the College Football Playoff Committee's 13 members is nothing more than a guess, as educated as it may be.

However, Bowlsby still believes that the research could push schools like TCU and Texas Tech to break with Texas and place that final vote for expansion.

When the presidents of each institution join the athletic directors and Big 12 officials in Dallas from May 31 to June 3, the conference's powers that be will chart a path forward that could ultimately include the expansion recommended by Navigate Research's conclusions. A full conclusion to the saga could come by the end of the summer.

Increasing revenue is critical because the Big 12 is in danger of falling behind other conferences financially, as Bowlsby warns, and would benefit from the increased profits provided by a conference championship game and a league-wide network, not to mention the possibility of renegotiating a more lucrative television network after expansion. Or at least better positioning the conference for the next deal.

Despite recent deregulation of conference championship games, the belief is that the league's members want to avoid double jeopardy in that game by forcing a rematch after the round-robin conference season, leaving expansion as the most viable option to significantly increase revenue

The thing is, the path forward recommended by the recent analysis may result in the league's biggest bully not getting what it wants. And that would be quite unusual, by anyone's account.