Realignment Today: Reports indicate Big 12 planning to officially invite BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to join the conference as soon as Friday
The Big 12 Conference could have a decidedly different look as soon as Friday, even if it won’t impact the schedules and competition for a couple of years.
According to multiple reports this week, including one from CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, the Big 12 appears to be on the brink of ballooning to 14 teams at least for the next couple of years.
The league would go back down — or is it up? — to 12 schools upon the departures of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC, which, as of today, is still slated for 2025 at the end of the Big 12’s current grant of rights agreement.
According to Dodd’s report, sources told him that Big 12 presidents — not ADs or commissioners — were prepared to “rubber stamp” invitations to four schools at a Friday meeting.
The four schools who are expected to be added are BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida, a group that emerged as the leading expansion candidates early on in the aftermath of the bombshell news dropped by OU and UT.
According to multiple reports this week, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF have officially applied for Big 12 membership and are expecting to receive invitations. It is not yet clear whether BYU has made a similar request, but, according to several recent reports, the Cougars emerged as the Big 12’s top choice in the current expansion talks.
Because of its status as an independent in football, BYU potentially could join the Big 12 as soon as 2022, with the three other schools following a year later.
While the addition of these four schools will not entirely make up for the losses of big, bad national brands Oklahoma and Texas, reports have indicated that it could be enough for the Big 12 Conference to keep its Power 5 status.
That would be significant both in terms of annual revenue haul and the conference’s ability to keep its access to the biggest pay day of all as the other power conferences explore expanding the college football playoff from its current four-team format to as many as 12.
It also would bring some much-needed stability to the conference — temporary or otherwise — and could make current members less likely to feverishly look for landing spots elsewhere as had been the case a couple of weeks ago.
That’s not to say that a few of the conference’s remaining eight members could not wind up somewhere else a few years down the road. But it does likely mean that if a school like Kansas is going to end up somewhere else, like say the Big Ten, it will be because things changed in that conference and the Big Ten decided to expand and went after KU or whichever other schools it might consider adding.
If that were to happen, KU almost certainly would have to take the invitation. Because while the move to add these four today would help ensure the Big 12’s survival, the conference has proven twice now that it can become vulnerable at any moment.
Beyond that, the Big Ten pay day would still be far greater (nearly double) than what a revamped Big 12 will pull in from its new television deals/partners, even if that number winds up being $20-25 million per school per year.
If no other invitation comes, KU, and others, finding a way to salvage $20-25 million annually from TV revenue should be considered a major victory. Sure, it’s a dip from the current $35 million range that Big 12 members are enjoying. But it could have dipped way lower.
There’s still a long way to go before those numbers become reality. And perhaps there will be some new, innovative twists to what the Big 12 does moving forward that make it (a) more appealing long term, (b) more lucrative for its members or (c) harder for anyone to get out once they’ve committed to the revamped conference.
But all of that can and will be settled over time, which the Big 12 now appears to have thanks to its willingness to move quickly to add what appears to be the best of what was available.