Big 12 Expansion
By Michael Doutey
We are inching closer and closer to a new college football season. This is one of the greatest times of the year because fans are filled with optimism for their teams. That all changes once the season begins and wins, losses and injuries begin to pile up.
But for fans in the Big 12, you have to keep wondering about the future of the conference. There is a ton of doubt, speculation and confusion surrounding this conference. I think Oklahoma State head football coach, Mike Gundy, summed up the current state of the Big 12 regarding conference expansion well this week.
Guerin Emig of The Tulsa World wrote a column last week about the comments Gundy made on Big 12 expansion after a Thursday practice.
“I don’t understand expansion right now. I don’t know what we’re doing,” Gundy said. “I think right now we are pretty much clueless.”
Mike, I couldn’t agree with you more.
That was before ESPN’s College Football writer Brett McMurphey broke the news this past weekend that the Big 12 will be looking to interview as many as 18 schools to expand the Big 12.
That sounds all well and good on paper, especially the fact that there are millions of dollars the Big 12 could rake in from their current TV deal with ESPN and Fox Sports. But the reality is that there are more cons than pros to expansion.
The TV deal that is in place is over 13 years and is worth $2.6 billion. So schools in the Big 12 basically get $20 million per season. However, that number could rise if the conference would expand. According to John Ourland and Michael Smith of sportsbusinessdaily.com, the networks would have to pay $40 million more if the Big 12 added two schools and $80 million if the Big 12 expanded to 14 teams.
That is wildly intriguing, especially to the current 10 teams due to the fact that the new schools coming in would’t gut a full piece of the pie with the TV revenue. But the TV networks are against expansion because they don’t want their product watered down.
And that is where this whole idea of expansion should die. The conference would take a major step back because the teams that would be added bring no value to the conference. None.
The 18 teams that are reportedly being interviewed are Air Force, Arkansas State, Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Colorado State, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, San Diego State, SMU, South Florida, Temple, Tulane, UCF and UConn.
That is a big pile of mediocrity or worse.
I am sorry, but a potential OU trip to play Arkansas State in football doesn’t get me too excited. What about a Texas-SMU Big 12 game? Well, how about Texas Tech and New Mexico? No?
I see the value of a BYU. Basically, they don’t hurt the Big 12, but I don’t see how they help the conference in a significant way.
I understand how Houston is good today, but do you really want OU and OSU to have to fight a Big 12 Houston for recruits? Plus, what happens when the Cougars head man Tom Herman leaves for a better job? The Houston football program will go back to how it is, which is largely ignored by the city of Houston compared to the likes of Texas, Texas A&M and the Houston Texans.
The only reason for expansion is for a money grab, which is already what the conference did when they added the return of the conference championship game in 2017. The championship game could add up to $28 million just for the game.
The Big 12 has no idea what to do. They are fading behind the SEC, Big 10 and ACC everyday, and making rash moves like this could chase the best teams from the conference.
Bob Bowlsby and his Big 12 are fighting to keep their heads above water. But all they are doing is making fools out of themselves.
There might not be anything that can save the conference. In a few years when the TV contract is up, maybe that will be the end of the conference. But all the disfunction is a clear sign that there’s no good leadership at the top of the conference.
What the Big 12 needs to do is take a deep breath, make a unified plan and execute it. Otherwise, it is going to be harder and harder to make take this conference seriously.