One of the most highly anticipated meetings in the history of the Big 12 Conference lasted more than five hours, ended a couple of hours earlier than expected and left everyone watching with the following verdict: The Big 12 is not expanding.
That’s what sources told ESPN.com's Jake Trotter shortly after the meeting wrapped up Monday and Trotter, on Twitter, indicated that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was in the process of informing representatives from the schools deemed to be in the running of the Big 12’s decision.
Up first on Bowlsby’s speed dial, no doubt, was the University of Houston, which, on the field at least, has spent the early part of the 2016 college football season making a monster case for inclusion in an expanded Big 12.
BYU, Cincinnati, UConn and others also likely received phone calls from Bowlsby, ending months of wild speculation and analysis about which universities would — or should — get in and why they were — or weren’t — good fits.
In the end, it seems as if the opinion of the Big 12’s television partners, FOX and ESPN, carried enough weight to keep the university presidents divided and prevent any schools from receiving the support needed to be added to the conference.
As the meeting progressed, rumors and false reports circulated on Twitter about what was going to happen. Some even went as far as to post photos of letterhead or back drops that featured the Cincinnati and BYU logos on separate backgrounds with the Big 12 logo scattered around them.
Reports leading up to Monday’s meeting indicated that, after interviewing schools and riding high in the very public expansion spotlight, the Big 12 was turned off by the lack of quality in the pool from which it had to choose.
Had this been a couple of years ago and Louisville and Houston were available, it may have been a much easier and quicker process and expansion may have actually happened. But, during the past several weeks, it became clear that every candidate up for discussion, including Houston, had its flaws and there were no home run additions for the conference.
The Big 12 kicked around the idea of forcing ESPN and FOX to kick in the pro ratta clause in the television contracts that would have required the TV partners to pony up big bucks regardless of who the Big 12 added. And the most recent reports indicated that the Big 12’s television partners may actually have elected to pay — read: renegotiated — the conference not to expand because of its displeasure with the profile of available candidates.
Regardless of how it all went down and what happened when, this much is known today: The Big 12 is not expanding. The Grant of Rights agreement, which expires in 2025, remains relevant. And there appear to still be ongoing negotiations for a revised TV deal between the Big 12 and its television partners, the result of which may not be known for some time.
Thus ends another crazy chapter in Big 12 history, clearing the way for the next one to begin.
Expansion may be dead for now. But you never know when it could rear its ugly head again or when the dreaded “realignment” word may come back into play, causing all kinds of uneasiness and drama in the conference yet again.
Stay tuned... Or not.
Bowlsby and Oklahoma president David Boren are expected to address the media live from Dallas at 5:30 p.m. this evening.
The press conference can be seen live on the Big 12 web site and the conference's Facebook page.