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Realignment Today: Reported meeting Tuesday between Big 12, Pac-12 worth noting for several reasons

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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks during NCAA college football Big 12 media days Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Arlington, Texas.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks during NCAA college football Big 12 media days Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Arlington, Texas. by AP Photo/LM Otero

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said throughout the past couple of weeks that he believed the Big 12 would have “options” that make it viable to stay together after Oklahoma and Texas depart.

Although the conference — and college athletics as a whole — remains a long way from knowing what he meant by that, a hint surfaced Tuesday.

According to a report from The Athletic’s Max Olson, Bowlsby was slated to meet with new Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff sometime Tuesday.

The details of the meeting’s agenda were scarce and probably will remain that way. But it’s clear, both from Bowlsby’s own words on Monday and from the fact that the meeting is taking place at all, that anything and everything is now on the table for the Big 12.

“I think there are options for us to partner with other conferences,” Bowlsby said Monday at a hearing of Texas lawmakers in Austin. “There may be opportunity for mergers. There may be opportunities to add members. There may be other opportunities that are currently unforeseen.”

When it’s survival you’re talking about, you can bet that anything goes for Bowlsby and the Big 12 from this point forward.

One other thing worth noting with these two conferences in particular is the fact that the Pac-12's TV deal expires in 2024 and the Big 12's in 2025. If they reach the point where they've decided to come together, perhaps the next round of TV negotiations would begin with the 2024-25 season, which would no doubt make OU and Texas happy.

I'm not saying the Big 12 is looking to do them any favors, but we know those two have a fair amount of influence in college athletics. Perhaps a you-scratch-our-back-we'll-scratch-yours situation could be in play that works for all parties involved.

The most interesting thing about Bowlsby’s reported meeting with Kilavkoff is that the Big 12 may actually have a little bit of an upper hand in it.

For one, it’s the Big 12 — with Texas and Oklahoma, of course — that has consistently ranked third in TV revenue payouts during the past several years, behind the SEC and Big Ten but ahead of the ACC and Pac-12.

The conference’s makeup will take a significant hit without OU and UT, but could a potential merger, if discussed or even proposed, be one that allows the Big 12 to survive based partly on that fact?

Another factor that could play to the Big 12’s advantage here is location.

When it comes to network dollars — undoubtedly a declining metric but still important to date — the central time zone is much, much more attractive than the late games on the West Coast.

If the Big 12 and Pac-12 were to merge in some fashion, keeping the Big 12 name and locating its league headquarters in the middle of the country could prove beneficial.

Even if it’s just the optics of such a move that matters, it still seems worth noting.

At first glance, the Pac-12, which reportedly paid out $32 million per member in fiscal year 2019 (compared to $35 million in the Big 12), may not have much use for the Big 12’s leftover eight.

But it’s not hard to see how a full-on merger and the formation of a 20-team super-conference could be viewed as attractive to ESPN, FOX, CBS or whomever else might want to get into the broadcast race.

After all, if those two conferences were good enough on their own to pump $30-plus million payouts, it stands to reason that combined, even without OU and Texas, they’d be able to negotiate a contract that comes somewhere close to that number.

The benefit of such an arrangement for the Big 12 is obvious.

The benefit for the Pac-12 comes in the form of stability and exposure. You’re now in all four major U.S. time zones — at least half of the time — and you no longer have to worry about any of your members getting poached by another conference.

Beyond that, competitively speaking, these two teaming up seems like a decent play, too.

For the Big 12, you’re gaining traditional powers like USC, UCLA, Oregon and Stanford.

For the Pac-12, you’re picking up programs like Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State and TCU, all of which have played in major bowls of late and been factors in the College Football Playoff or BCS conversation over the past decade.

And that’s to say nothing of adding the Kansas and Baylor basketball brands to the lineup.

Who knows what’s possible or what will come of today’s meeting? It could be a courtesy. It could be to talk about a scheduling alliance and not a full-fledged merger. And it could lead to absolutely nothing.

The good news for Big 12 fans, though, is that it’s happening.

Bowlsby may have his back against the wall and be scrambling like we’ve never seen before. But at least he appears to be actively pursuing whatever avenues he can think of at the moment.

In that way, there does appear to be solidarity in the Big 12, because you have to think that’s what all eight of the conference’s schools not named Oklahoma and Texas are doing right now, too.

Comments

Steve Hillyer 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Bowlsby better be careful, Big 12 and PAC 10 met to discuss an alliance or merger 10 years ago and Larry Scott then proceeded to try and raid the Big 12 eventually getting Colorado. If the PAC 12 wants a Midwestern presence then I see them doing something with the Big 10, I don’t see the PAC 12 being interested I the Big 12.

Kevin Woods 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Great let’s have basketball games starting at 10pm on a weekday, that’s a winning idea.

We need to go east!

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 3 months, 4 weeks ago

"Leftover eight?" That's harsh Matt.

Regardless, this option seems like a good option for everyone except possibly W. Virginia.

Matt Tait 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I'm not printing it on T-Shirts... Just another way to describe them as a group. I've seen worse.

The West Virginia piece is definitely interesting so let's get WAY ahead of ourselves here... If — IF — something like this were to happen, I could see it not including WVU. They may be destined to join the ACC and the Big 12/Pac-12 could then pick up an additional program to make it an even 20 (maybe BYU, maybe Houston, etc)

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Good call. BYU or Houston would be good replacements.

Chris Teegarden 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Matt any chance of getting the percentage articles back from 10 years ago. It's a great way to check in on how things are leaning every few days, and may save me from reading 100s of page on a message board.

Matt Tait 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Thanks for checking, Chris! I'll bring in the percentage wheel approach when I have a better feel for what's going on. Right now, it would be based mostly on speculation, and I'm not sure that's worth anyone's time. As you mentioned, there's plenty of that going on on the message boards out there. smh.

Not many people are talking about where this thing is headed just yet. For obvious reasons.

1 - Because not many people know

2 - Because it's serious/high stakes business

Once they start — and as long as they're talking to me — I'll be able to put together a better look at what I predict will happen.

Again, thanks for checking though. Because this one could — COULD — play out over a few years instead of a few months, the percentage wheel approach could be a little harder this time around. But I love it. And I'm thankful that others do, as well. I just don't want it to waste anyone's time.

LongLiveThePercentageWheel!

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 3 months, 4 weeks ago

QQ Matt. I vaguely remember from 10 years ago that one of the stumbling blocks of these merger talks with the Pac12 was the Pac12 was not excited about adding the religious based schools, like Baylor & TCU (and potentially BYU).

Any thoughts on that angle (or angel)?

Matt Tait 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I've heard that, too. And I think there's a lot to it. I don't know yet how much of a factor it would play this time around. You certainly have to consider that it's been 10 years since then and the landscape has changed.

But you're absolutely right to think that that could become problematic here.

Spencer Goff 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I was stationed out west for the first two years of my service, and here is the reason they rank behind the SEC and Big 10, even the Big 12 in revenue:

When you are really, really good (Pete Carroll USC) they ALL love you and claim they have always been a “die hard super fan.”

But when you are only mediocre or outright bad, you take a back seat to the beach, ski resorts, night life, the bay, hiking, shopping, gambling in Vegas, or any of the other 5,000 instant entertainment venues on the coast.

So of their 20 million in LA, when you are bad, 10,000 of them care and wear your stuff. Otherwise, they don’t care. ESPN and most networks just cannot understand this.

Spencer Goff 3 months, 4 weeks ago

@Karen Mansfield-Stewart

It was a hard block by Stanford and Cal-Berkeley. It is why they snagged Utah over BYU.

Those two schools have a massive amount of influence on the Pac 12 because they are insanely wealthy from research. Stanford is worth Ivy League money (close to 25-30 billion? Check me?) and Cal-Berkeley is worth something like 5-6 billion, and like OU and Texas they hate each other on the field but are always allies everywhere else. They have essentially controlled the Pac 12 through money and alliance.

People keep saying it is about football. I keep saying it’s about money. This puts TCU and Baylor in a pretty tough spot if they block again. Hopefully for us and them their failing TV revenues work in our favor.

(As a side note, Univ. of Washington is another high dollar public school in terms of research and has historically sided with Stanford and Cal but they do waiver sometimes)

Spencer Goff 3 months, 4 weeks ago

So I was auto typing on this phone, I cannot believe nobody caught waiver vs. waver. Come on Matt, get me!

Benny Armstrong 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Spencer and Karen,

Something additional to consider on the theme of restrictions. Keep in mind that there was a law passed in California in 2017 that blocks public universities from traveling to states that have passed restrictive laws and included among those states is Kansas. I wasn't able to find anything in my quick search to see if this was still in effect or if the bill they are referencing was undone, but it could throw a giant wrench into things if a large portion of the schools in a conference were prohibited by law from traveling to some away games.

https://www.californiagoldenblogs.com/2017/2/6/14526938/california-golden-bears-ucla-bruins-schedule-ku-kstate-unc-duke-ole-miss-tennessee-discrimination

Spencer Goff 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Bruce;

Yeah I remember something like that too, if you gimme time I can call my old buddy still living there but I promise that usually results in me three beers deep.

I don’t remember if it passed or was just debated and I don’t remember if it revolved around politics/religion or what.

Again, it likely stemmed from Stanford/Cal. Was it something with BYU maybe they were mad about LGBTQ treatment? Please understand, I in no way want this to turn into a political he said, she said thing, but I think people fail to understand how belligerent schools can be on the left/right spectrum and it certainly is at play, or was ten years ago.

Bob Strawn 3 months, 4 weeks ago

This is about football. An alliance of football and MBB would bring the Pac 12 Network a Midwest footprint and people who actually care about college sports. Leave the other sports in their conferences as they are today. It's a good concept worth pursuing. Unlike a merger, an alliance would allow the B12 to add BYU without causing the left coast Ivys to go epileptic.

Rodney Crain 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Not sure about the all 4 time zones angle. The Pac 12 will not want to fly across the country for just WV. I hope WV seeks and finds a closer East coast place to land, they would not be happy flying 5+ hours for a game either. If anyone can make this happens its Bob Bowlsby. He knows the schools, he might have existing relationships, and he might know how to get by the religious concerns if there are any. I get that a lot folks on here do not think he has done much for the B12 but his swan song of making this happen would be a great way to say so long Bob! The P12 network is decent and already setup too. I get it where I live and like it. I think at this point we are Oliver Twist asking "Please, sir, I want some more". This is are only shot of staying in a Power Conference.

Barry Weiss 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I called this the week the UT/OU split hit the news. Hope this happens!

Austin Lopez 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Not sure if anyone on here watched or listened to the full 7 hour conference The state of Texas officials had regarding this situation with Texas leaving the BIG12 but If anyone wants a laugh there are a lot of comments throughout the conference they had that will give you some laughs. Texas took a lot of heat and seemed like some politicking from Texas officials for Houston to be added to the BIG12.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I agree the Mountaineers are the odd ducks of a P12 B12 merger. Hopefully Bob can broker a deal for them to the ACC.

I like the idea of an alliance but think a merger adds more stability for everyone.

Add Colorado, Utah and BYU to the Midwest division.
California, Arizona, Oregon, & Washington schools in a Western Division.

A very solid 20 team power conference.

Layne Pierce 3 months, 4 weeks ago

If the Big 12 doesn't just fold, then adding other teams (markets) is imperative and it should be done post haste. Houston was voted against primarily by Texas,so for that reason let's take Houston, just for the fun of it. Houston is a major market, and there are a lot of good athleties, not all of whom will want to play for Houston. Houston is a very good basketball school.

Let's try to get Arkansas, Misso, and TA*M to leave the SEC just to muddy the water, and and Let's immediately talk to BYU, yes, they can also be a PIA, but they do have a good market, and a great following. If we need another team go for Colorado, but Colo St, would work. Then let's take Cincinnati to get at the Big 10 market.

Now we will have pissed off a lot of people, and that most likely means we are doing the right thing. Doing nothing is pointless, just disband the conference and be done with it. Or ...

RCJH

Kevin Woods 3 months, 4 weeks ago

We do not want KU games on the west coast time zone. Does anyone know anything about Pac12 basketball?

The games come on TV as half the country goes to sleep.

We need to get KU into the ACC or Big10

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Two problems: First, I'm sure KU would love to join the Big10, however I haven't seen an invitation or even an expression of interest.

If KU were to receive an invitation from the ACC, KU would be the odd geographic duck in the conference which is still well behind the Big10 & SEC.

Rodney Crain 3 months, 4 weeks ago

We do not have anything to offer the ACC or B10 by ourselves. Joining the P12 is the best option for many reasons.

John Joseph Gorski 3 months, 4 weeks ago

We merge with the pac then the athletic department is dead. Worst case scenario is joining the PAC 10!!!

Micky Baker 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Not sure West Virginia would be happy with this. They would fit in well in the ACC in basketball maybe, and probably be a prominent player in football there as well. The other 7 schools joining up with the Pac 12, then adding another school out west from a lesser conference like Boise State could be a better deal for both conferences. This surprises me, because I did not think the PAC 12 would have any interest in a merger with the Midwest schools, though it would expand their market and ours significantly. It would make away games much more difficult to travel to for the teams for both conferences, but would likely open up some recruiting opportunities out in California for the remaining Big 12 schools.

Suzi Marshall 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Damn...really good article and comments. Reminds me of a few years ago when the LJW's articles and comments were a daily must 'go-to'. IMO, it looks like Kansas will end up just fine, either in the Big 10 or a Big12/PAC12 super conference. Therefore, Matt's 'left-over 8' should do whatever is needed to cost UT/OU/ESPN the maximum amount of money. Personally, I'd love to see us end up pulling an impossible trick of getting NU/MU/CU back in the same conference. CU was always my favorite visit....NU people were always so friendly...all Kansas fans loved hating MU.

Jeff Coffman 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I still believe KU/BYU to the Big10 WVU or Cincy to the ACC 4 teams (3 from the Big12 and BYU will got to the PAC)

However, my true fear is that the Big10 will go after the PAC12 big dogs-UCLA and USC. If that happens the 10 leftovers there and the 8 in the Big 12 will have two teams out...Oregon State and Washington State. And the 8 from PAC and 8 from B12. If one falters BYU is added.

Anyways, I think B10 has the driver's seat. If they get USC/UCLA, ACC will go big for ND.

Rodney Crain 3 months, 4 weeks ago

That is never going to happen. The B10 is just not going to add West Coast Schools. It makes no sense. The P12 has not lost their 2 best schools, it is not splitting apart.

Brian Skelly 3 months, 4 weeks ago

There's not going to be a merger.   Unless the "sexy six" (UCLA,USC,Stanford, Cal, Oregon and UW) decide to join the Big 10.     The remaining six -- Arizona, ASU, Utah, Colorado, Washington State, Oregon State might want to merge with what's left of the Big 12 then.    Otherwise, I have no idea what this meeting is about.   Other than optics, and promising not to try and pilfer each conferences schools.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 3 months, 4 weeks ago

That would be a nightmare scenario. That would basically mean two super conferences and every other school currently in a P5 would be left out in the cold.

Ted Hume 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Why in the world wound the Big 10 merge with the Pac 12? that makes less sense geographically than WV in the Big 12. A combined Big-12 Pac 12 does however work well for many of the reasons above related to opening up media markets and the geography is not too insane. But this only works if it creates 2 divisions: and central division and a coastal division, with each playing most of their games within (every team once) and teams from the other division every other year. This keeps distance travel down to a manageable level and manages the issue of not too many late games on TV.

I love this option of a revamped, 2-division league with WV cut loose to go to the ACC and adding Houston and BYU +1.

Let's get it done!

Ervin O'Neal 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Conference scheduling for fore than 16 teams makes it really difficult enough to have each school host a game against each school in the other division in a reasonable amount of time.
Let's assume the SEC puts Bama and Auburn in the East and moves Mizery to the West. The new conference scheduling would include 7 games against your division and 2 games against the 8 teams in the other division. Teams like LSU would go from playing Bama annually and hosting the game every other year to playing Bama every 4 years and hosting them every 8 years. That also requires the schools to have 9 conference games and only 2 non-conference games. Increasing the size of the conference to 18 or 20 just makes it even worse. I'd like to see four conferences of 16 teams. If I am wishful thinking, CU and KU join the B1G (not opposed to ISU, just don't think it makes as much financial sense for the B1G as CU). That would leave 17 schools that are current members of the Big 12 and Pac 12 plus schools like Notre Dame, BYU, etc. available to make up the 4th conference as well as 2 open spots in the ACC. To force the hand of Notre Dame, I'd like to see the 4 enter into scheduling agreements for one of the non-conference games. For instance, the B1G could rotate with the ACC for 1 non-conference game and the SEC and Pac 12 could have a similar agreement. The schools would then only have 1 open game each year to schedule against a lesser opponent. If that happened, Notre Dame would be forced to either join a conference or play a schedule each year that didn't include any opponents from the 4 major conferences. Ultimately, I'd like to see Notre Dame and WVU in the ACC. That would leave the remaining 16 current members and schools like BYU, Houston, etc. available for the new 4th conference. On paper it sounds nice. But I just don't see schools like Cal and Stanford agreeing to be in the same conference as BYU, TCU and Baylor. Then you throw in the California law that prohibits their state schools from traveling to a state like Kansas with laws that protect those that discriminate against the LBGT community on campuses, and this combined conference would have some major hurdles.

Ted Hume 3 months, 4 weeks ago

In terms of division alignment, the most logical might be to pull CU and the Az schools into a 10-team Central division with the remaining B12 schools, and then add BYU to round out a 10-team Coastal division.

Ted Hume 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Ervin- so maybe a solution to avoid one of those hurdles it to drop BU TCU and BYU for the equation, the later two can join the AAC, and you get a 16 team conference with more manageable scheduling for two 8-team divisions?

David Atchley 3 months, 4 weeks ago

The PAC-12 historically has steered away from the religious institutions and the central reason there wasn't more traction in 2011 with the Big 12. (Baylor Baptists, TCU Church of Christ) The PAC-12 has steered away from BYU for precisely the same reason. A PAC-12/ Mountain West merger makes far more sense. As to the comment about too many teams in a conference, that is exactly the direction intended. In the short term, it increases a team's "strength-of-schedule." Kansas Football has never been concerned with strength-of-schedule, but for teams jockeying for National Playoff considerations, it's everything.

I realize the buzz is the rumor of Kansas being considered for the Big 10. Apparently, the reporter has since "clarified" his reported rumor. Kansas Football in the Big 10 cannot be a pressing issue for their Commissioner. Kansas has struggled competing with the Sun Belt Conference and Missouri Valley opponents. Imagine lining up on game day versus Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Northwestern.

Bville Hawk 3 months, 4 weeks ago

The Big 10 commish won't make the call as to who to invite, it'll be made my the university presidents. KU is very appealing to Big 10 presidents because it is an AAU school, a state university (as opposed to a city), and the state of Kansas is contiguous to other states in the conference.

I think the Big 10 would take KU-MU in a heartbeat, a little less if KU-ISU (not sure how Iowa would feel about ISU in the Big 10). BYU not appealing because it is not a state school and Utah is not contiguous to the conference.

Bj Cassady 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Heck lets join the P12 but add BYU, Cincy, Houston, SMU, Tulane, Memphis, Colorado St and USAF this would tick a lot of people off. Give W Virginia some people to play close by.

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