Big XII Expansion Questions

We know the Big XII has established a media rights deal with ESPN and Fox.

This gets the XII on "linear television" where their games will be shown by not only ESPN and Fox, but ABC (of which ESPN is a part), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPNU (not sure if that’s a real thing…), FS1 & FS2 (both cable and streaming affiliates of Fox). So, they have access to 2 of the 4 major "over-the-air" traditional networks, some of the most watched cable networks and to some streaming; although, it is not Amazon Prime or Apple+ TV.

It also establishes the conference on College Sports’ two premier outlets in ESPN and Fox. CBS and NBC are dabblers and do not have the cache ESPN and Fox brings.

ESPN dominates the discussion where rankings of teams are concerned. And, with the B1G spurning ESPN, what will that do to the rankings their members get as seasons devolve to their conclusions and decisions are being made as to who will and will not make the soon-to-be 12- (and eventually 16-?) Team College Football Playoffs? What will it do to their seedings in the basketball and baseball tournaments?

Granted, the SEC will get most of ESPN’s attention as they are the near-total lock for providing SEC content. But, the XII will expect ESPN to promote their wares as well!

Question #01: Will the XII members sign a "Grant of Rights" contract with the league to turn over all their broadcast rights to the league for the duration of the deal?

The assumed answer would certainly be, "Yes". The league wants security and locking each other into the "club" is the best way to achieve this. If a team that has signed a GoR with its league wants to leave, it forfeits the money it would make from its new league to its old league (and, I assume, the monies it would have gotten from its old league as well) for the duration of the deal (in this case, through July of 2031.

Subset of Question #01: Firstly, Does the league still have its 99-year deal set in place that will still cost members $80M to leave even if there are no television deals to cloud the issue?

Texas and Oklahoma were willing to pay this amount only because it could be recouped by the revenue difference between the SEC and the XII. If a team is not going to the SEC (or the B1G), that would be an extremely difficult penalty to justify just to move laterally.

Secondly, do the new teams (already consisting of BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston) sign into that deal?

These already arriving teams are taking a huge step up in prestige moving from a "G5" conference (second tier) or an independent status (BYU) up to a "P5" conference. My guess is they have been informed of the "membership" stipulation and have agreed to it. Now, the follow-up question is: Would a school moving from another "P5" conference be willing to tie themselves down for the remainder of that "membership" clause?

Thirdly, do the new teams sign on at the current status (approximately 88 years left at this point rather than the full 99)?

An interesting twist. If they do sign on and their document still specifies 99 years, these new teams could well end up being the survivors of the new conference should it collapse at the end of that 99 years. I would suggest that is highly unlikely.

Question #02: Would current members (excluding Texas and OU who are leaving, but include the already signed-on new members: BYU, CFU, Cincy & Houston) be willing to dilute their distribution of television monies to bring in more new members?

Caveat: ESPN has agreed to a clause that will proportionately increase their payout for any "Power 5" institution that chooses to shift into the XII. (Power 5 are those members of the top 5 conferences: B1G, SEC, XII, ACC or PAC). But, ESPN only pays 63% of the total deal. Fox pays the other 37% and they did not agree to such a clause. They can tell the conference it is not getting any more regardless of who signs on to join.

So, San Diego State, Memphis, SMU and other "G5" conference members nor any FCS schools would trigger that clause giving the league any more monies.

Question #03: If the XII were to add a team like San Diego State and/or Fresno State, would ESPN and Fox like the exposure they would gain enough to bump the outlay enough to make it worthwhile for the existing members to agree?

Adding San Diego State would bring in the entirety of the Southern California market (including Los Angeles to a large extent) and provide tremendous recruiting resources to the league making it a better view. It would also lead to far more Californians having an interest in tuning to ABC and Fox affiliates as well as to their Cable and Streaming enterprises.

If either partner says no, would the league be willing to take a little less over the 6-year deal to establish their place for the next media deal? Simple greed could lead to future loss in this case.

Question #04: If the XII were to invite other "P5" schools in triggering the ESPN clause giving a bump for each school equal to what ESPN is already paying for each current member, could Fox be coerced into upping its payout to the league commensurately?

Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado might decide that either the lack of visibility on a streaming platform such as Apple+ TV or Amazon Prime or the lack of security from Washington, Oregon, Stanford and Cal refusing to turn over their broadcast rights via a GoR in case the B1G should call on them would be something that would not be in their best interest. If so, they might seek other accommodations and the XII might have openings for them.

Secondly, if the XII brought in schools not on the "current roster" as provided to Fox, could those additional additions be exempted from Fox’s choices for broadcast?

If Fox is not interested in paying for their addition, could those schools’ inventory of offerings be offered to ESPN and yet another media partner rather than Fox essentially bringing in a second "Tier 2" partner? Or, does Fox’s contract specify the "league-as-a-whole" or is it specific to the current 12 member institutions? If the latter, Fox could well be bypassed if they don’t ante up.

If a second Tier 2 partner is prohibited, ESPN still gets their choice of all league games while Fox chooses from the existing 12. Could subsequent games be shown by a Tier 3 media partner such as Amazon Prime or Apple+ TV?

This would water down the visibility of those games such as Houston/Iowa State or Kansas/Baylor by bumping them to a streaming partner, but would certainly set the league up for its next contract after 2031.

Question #05: Stanford, Cal and Washington share valuable research (i.e. educational benefit) with the schools in their conference. Are the PAC members willing to surrender visibility and security to maintain that affiliation even if there were no guarantees of continuance after just a few years?

There are several Tier I Research institutions (Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas (also AAU)) in the XII, but, unless Rice were to be invited, nothing that could match what those three offer would be available in the Conference.

Caveat: Would Colorado even be considered? Would Colorado stoop to returning to the XII?

Colorado has already spurned the league once. And, their recent comments that the XII is a "JUCO" league clearly didn’t sit well with the XII fanbase. Would the XII offer them the phone number of the WAC or WCC instead?

As for Colorado’s perspective, the original reason they left was they were unable to tolerate the domination of the league by the University of Texas. The Longhorn Network was a thorn in everyone’s side and Texas’ insistence they be allowed perks none of the other universities (other than Oklahoma) could enjoy sent them spiraling off to the PAC. Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri also bailed on the conference because of Texas’ buffoonery.

Texas is no longer a member after 2025. Does that make a difference?

Question #06: Gonzaga has approached the XII about the possibility of their joining the league. Is this doable?

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First off, Texas and OU are paying a combined $160M ($80M each) to get out of the league.

Secondly, Gonzaga does not have a football program so would not bring football dollars to the table. But, the do have a premier basketball program which brings "March Madness" money to the table. They also have baseball, softball and other sports that could enhance the portfolio of the league and provide content the media partners could use to populate those December through July broadcast time slots.

Gonzaga would not gain a full share of the media rights deal – only about 20% as that is all the "secondary" sports provide. So, 20% of $31.7M would be a little less than $6½M. I’m hearing the figure being considered is closer to $8-$10M (at least double what they are getting now). The league could pay that for the duration of the new deal out of the money UT and OU are paying in exit fees.

The XII is already the premier league in both men’s and women’s basketball having won the last two NCAA Men’s titles and at least a couple of the last 5 NCAA Women’s titles. And, the league’s baseball is on par with any other conference. It would be insane to not consider bringing in yet another massive name to add to the Madness of March to carry the XII flag.

Question #07: What happens if the ACC sees the direction the XII Is going coupled with the financial behemoths that B1G and SEC have become and enough ACC schools band together to see what they can get by dissolving that conference?

  • · The SEC already has Florida and they have, traditionally, been opposed to allowing Florida State or Miami to come into that conference.

  • · It has Georgia, so Georgia Tech might also be blocked.

  • · Would South Carolina want to share a conference with Clemson? On top of already having to deal with Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida?

  • · Can Kentucky block Louisville? Would they?

It is my understanding that any additions to the SEC requires 100% of the vote by the existing conference members. Many of these members have, in the past, rejected the idea of other institutions in their states being allowed into the hallowed corridors of the SEC.

But, if the ACC dissolves… do those SEC schools allow the XII and B1G to gain Clemson, Florida State as well as Atlanta (Georgia Tech) rather than securing them for their conference?

Pitt would be an ideal addition to the XII. Louisville, Virginia and Virginia Tech would also be ideal travelling partners for West Virginia (which has long suffered the daunting pressures travel to face their XII foes has presented). That has already been alleviated a little with the addition of Cincinnati.

Of course, Virginia (along with Duke and North Carolina) could well be sucked up by the B1G. Clemson would likely prefer the B1G to the XII – if they can’t get into the SEC as their likely first choice.

Florida State and Miami would be great for UCF and you could argue that USF would also be a good add. It would also be preemptive as USF and UCF are two of the largest student bodies in the country and, although relatively new institutions, are rolling out alumni as fast as anyone. If they are not already a worth add, by the end of 2031, they well could be and would already be in the XII.

Georgia Tech might draw the interest of the B1G as they are an AAU school. And, they’d travel well with Clemson.

NC State would be a good get for the XII. But, where would Boston College, Syracuse and Wake Forest go? BC "Flutied" themselves into prominence at one point, but have never been a great football school other than that. Syracuse has, historically, been a great football power. But, not since they joined the ACC. Wake Forest occasionally has good basketball teams…

There are a lot of dynamics that will draw consideration should the ACC fold.

Final Question: If the XII continues to grow, whether or not they achieve a massive cadre of schools and coast-to-coast glory, do they rebrand as something else? Do they remain the Big XII?

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