Realignment Today: Big 12 talks lead to further commitment, desire for conference to stay together
Leaders of the eight remaining schools in the Big 12 Conference remain focused on staying committed to one another and the conference they have called home for more than two decades.
After two days of meetings this week with athletic directors from what the Big 12 is calling the eight “continuing members of the Big 12 Conference,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby shared the tone of the talks.
“The eight ADs remain committed to furthering the Big 12 as one of the nation’s premier athletic conferences, and look forward to working with our presidents and chancellors to strengthen the league,” Bowlsby said Wednesday night in a statement released by the Big 12. “Future exploration by the group will continue to center on options that best position the long-term strength of the conference.”
The Big 12 is in this position, of course, because of the recent decision by Oklahoma and Texas to announce their plans to leave the conference for the SEC after the grant of rights agreement expires in 2025.
Whether the two powerhouse programs remain in the conference that long remains to be seen and could depend largely on what the eight members they’re leaving behind do in the coming months and years.
Shortly after OU and UT announced their future departures, the three other power-five conferences in college athletics announced that they were forming an alliance.
Leaders of the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 held a joint press conference to announce the alliance and they said then that the Big 12 was not included in it because of the general instability the conference is currently facing.
Speculation about Big 12 expansion, and which schools (and when) the Big 12 might add in an effort to regain stability and offset some of the losses of Oklahoma and Texas, has run rampant in the past couple of weeks.
But while he did not give a specific timeline of any kind, Bowlsby’s statement on Wednesday makes it clear that nothing is imminent.
BYU above all, along with Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston, have gained the most traction in expansion talks and rumors. But at least half a dozen other schools have been floated in recent weeks as universities the Big 12 might — or even should — consider adding.
The conference’s preference for patience likely comes from the fact that OU and Texas would face stiff exit penalties for leaving the conference, therein bringing even more money to the pockets of the eight remaining members.
But while financial stability may be a reality for at least a couple more years, the future of the conference beyond that seems to be viewed as being on rocky ground throughout the rest of college athletics at the present time.