Concerned that the status quo will result in the Big 12 Conference falling behind other leagues, on Tuesday the Board of Directors asked commissioner Bob Bowlsby to look into the financial and competitive implications of adding two to four schools in a vote that was unanimous.
Oklahoma president David Boren revealed the decision during a delayed teleconference following the conclusion of Big 12 Media Days in Dallas and represented the first significant step forward for the conference in making changes since the additions of TCU and West Virginia.
One of the key points for the conference that Boren once again made clear is that adding schools would not reduce the current financial shares received by each school, as guaranteed by the terms of the television contracts.
The question was always whether any combination of two or four schools would prompt re-negotiated contracts that providing the boost in revenue that the conference so desperately feels like it needs.
Actually, as it turns, that may not matter after all...
The upcoming task for Bowlsby will be to do the preliminary work of assessing the candidates and then what Boren termed a “negotiations stage.” What exactly that entails isn’t clear, but it sounds like a smaller conference share that would boost revenues for current institutions could be on the table.
Likely #Big12 motive: Conference won't survive beyond current TV deals. Members are grabbing every nickel they can scoop up while they can.— John Shinn (@john_shinn) July 19, 2016
At time when ESPN is losing subscribers, that network FOX may not prefer expansion, but the Oklahoma president did not mince words in sharing the conference’s stance, saying, "We intend to exercise the full prerogative of what we negotiated.”
In other words, Boren’s message from the Big 12 is that it doesn’t care how much the networks might hate paying out $60-120 million more per year on a conference that few view as having any long-term future, but there won’t be any choice if the Board of Directors decides to expand.
Bowlsby: "I don't think we have to make apologies for activating stipulations in a contract we both agreed to."— Ryan Aber (@ryaber) July 19, 2016
There is not currently a timetable for that two-step process, Boren said, as time marches towards 2025, when the current grant of rights will expire. However, Bowlsby believes it could happen by 2017, when the conference will have to make a decision about divisions as it adds a championship game once again.
And so while the next scheduled Board of Directors meeting is in October, Bowlsby said a special meeting could have before then, indicating that there is something of an accelerated timetable for the conference.
Possible candidates popularly linked to the Big 12 include BYU, Boise State, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, UConn, and UCF, though it sounds like virtually any school could be under consideration at this point, with a willingness to throw a large share of television money back at the conference likely a key consideration.