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.
According to a Thursday report from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, it appears that University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod is part of a sub-committee charged with looking into potential Big 12 expansion, as the winds of realignment blow back toward the middle of America.
In the report, Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt reportedly said he, Baylor AD Mack Rhoades and “presidents” from Iowa State and Kansas were on the committee.
Later in the story, Hocutt said the group had been expanded to include all Big 12 presidents.
A KU spokesperson did not immediately respond to a Journal-World inquiry about Girod’s spot on the committee.
It also has been reported by several outlets that the Big 12 has turned to former West Virginia AD and XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck to serve as a consultant to help the conference work through its realignment options.
The news of the Big 12 moving forward with expansion exploration came just hours after the Pac-12 announced its plan to “stand pat” rather than expand.
“Right now, our complete focus is to make the Big 12 as strong as it can possibly be,” Hocutt told the Avalanche-Journal. “And I expect that Texas Tech will play a leadership role in that. We’re going to continue to be part of the power-five structure in college athletics.”
With the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten entering into an alliance that binds those three power conferences together — at least philosophically and perhaps even as voting partners — and with the SEC doing the powerhouse football thing in the southeast, the eight remaining Big 12 schools have some decisions to make.
From the day Oklahoma and Texas announced their plans to move to the SEC, the talk in the Big 12 has been about the remaining eight staying strong and loyal and seeing what options they might have next.
While it may seem on the surface like their hand has been forced and that expansion and salvaging some kind of TV deal for its future survival is the conference’s only move, that may not be the case for at least the next three to four years.
Remember, as things currently stand, OU and UT are not planning on leaving the Big 12 until the grant of rights agreement expires in 2025. That would give all 10 current Big 12 schools four more years of solid financial footing.
It’s important to remember that simply putting together a committee does not mean that expansion is inevitable. And it’s certainly not imminent. After all, the Pac-12 just proved that in a matter of a few days.
And while Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff said Thursday that the conference had no plans to expand, it is also important to remember that, in today’s wild times, that plan is more of a “that’s how we feel right now” sort of thing rather than an “it’s etched in stone forever” deal.
Things change. They always have. Things change often in college athletics these days. More so than ever before.
Best to be ready, or at least ready for Round 2 after getting blindsided the first time around.
According to the Avalanche-Journal report, the Big 12’s expansion committee is slated to meet Friday morning before a round of “in-person meetings next week involving Big 12 athletic directors and media and television consultants.”
“We’re continually talking to (Big 12) commissioner (Bob) Bowlsby as well as Oliver Luck,” Hocutt said in the story. “(We) feel very fortunate to have Oliver engaged in our con-versations in helping us navigate the waters, as well.
“There is a lot of interest in the Big 12 Conference," he added. “There is a lot of interest for people to be associated with us, to join with us. So we will take our time, be diligent and make sure we make the right strategic decisions for the long-term fu-ture.”
Realignment Today: All eyes on the Pac-12 for the rest of the week, even if the conference deciding to expand is highly unlikely
From the moment Oklahoma and Texas first announced that they were leaving the Big 12 Conference for the greener bank accounts, I mean pastures, of the SEC, a huge chunk of the Kansas fan base immediately put its focus on KU’s chances of joining the Big Ten.
While that may still be the most desired outcome — if it’s even possible — it’s another of the remaining power five conferences that bears watching this week.
Shortly after yesterday’s groundbreaking announcement of the alliance between the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12, Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff told multiple media outlets that the Pac-12 would announce by the end of the week whether it intends to expand.
The fact that there’s such a quick turnaround on that answer leads me to believe that we’re simply waiting for a no.
But in these uncertain times, the mere fact that one of the conferences out there that could provide a lifeline to at least some of the remaining eight Big 12 schools who have no idea what their future holds means it’s worth tracking.
Shortly before the newly announced three-way alliance became a thing, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Kliavkoff met to discuss the current landscape of college athletics. The hope then, among fans of the Big 12, was that those two conferences would form some kind of partnership. It never happened. And now the Big 12 has been left out of the alliance altogether.
Still, Kliavkoff seems like a leader who has his head on straight and he also appears to be genuinely exploring all kinds of options for the good of the Pac-12, possible expansion being one of them.
Earlier this month, he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the following:
“I am not actively poaching any school or convincing anyone to leave their existing conference, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I wasn't listening to schools that wanted to go in the Pac-12. And we've had a lot of them reach out. Probably all of the ones you would expect and several you'd be surprised by."
As already mentioned, the smart money this week is on hearing that the Pac-12 has no intention of adding any schools to its conference at this time. Saying anything else would seem to run counter to the whole point of announcing the big alliance on Tuesday.
But just because the Pac-12 says no today — if that’s in fact how it goes down — does not mean it is etched in stone forever and can never change. Same goes for the Big Ten or the ACC, for that matter.
If we’ve learned anything during the past decade, and, more specifically in the past couple of years and months, it’s that things are ever-changing in the world of college athletics and today’s stability is only as good as tomorrow’s actions.
Kansas to the Pac-12 remains way far down on my list of likely outcomes for the Jayhawks when all of this is settled. But it certainly doesn’t hurt any of the Big 12 schools searching for hope to know that at least one of the power conferences is entertaining the idea of expansion as we speak.
Realignment Today: Why KU remaining patient (for now) is the right move as the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 formally announce new alliance
Updated at 3:27 p.m.
Commissioners from the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 joined together on Tuesday to formally announce an alliance between their three power conferences.
While doing so, they made sure to point out that they’re rooting for the Big 12 Conference and emphasized that a thriving Big 12 is good for college athletics and the power conference landscape as a whole.
Not so good that they would want to include the remaining eight schools in the suddenly-on-life-support Big 12 in the alliance, mind you, but good.
In addition, the ACC’s Jim Phillips, the Big Ten’s Kevin Warren and George Kliavkoff of the Pac-12 all expressed admiration and confidence in Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and at least one of them, Phillips, said they all were willing to do whatever they could to help the Big 12.
Again, everything but securing its future by including the Big 12 schools left hanging by Oklahoma and Texas in the groundbreaking alliance, which, Warren said, was done in part to bring stability to college athletics.
That may well be true in those three conferences and with the SEC. But things remain anything but stable in Big 12 country.
The whole thing reeked of an awkward break-up, with one person saying really, really nice things about the person they’re dumping, first, to lessen the blow of the break-up, but, more importantly, to make themselves feel better about what they’re doing.
The details of the alliance remain a work in progress. Heck, there’s not even a contract, and Kliavkoff said there does not need to be.
That sounds like it’ll go well down the road.
At the center of it all, though, is the group’s belief that there will be scheduling advantages that lead to more television dollars, a shared belief that's important to preserve the core values that have always existed in college athletics and the idea that academics should remain a key part of the puzzle.
They didn’t come right out and say that some of those things don’t seem to matter as much in the SEC anymore, but you weren’t alone if you read into it that way.
It’s unclear today how any of this might impact Kansas and the remaining eight schools in the Big 12.
Things continue to look bleak in terms of the conference surviving as the power conference that we have known it to be for the past couple of decades.
And those eight schools whose futures hang in the balance have very different paths forward. Some, like KU, may be best served by remaining patient and seeing how things play out for the next year or two or four.
Others, like Kansas State, may have to be a little more aggressive, both from the perspective of self-preservation and in saving what they can of the Big 12 Conference.
That’s why you’re hearing K-State AD Gene Taylor offer up his thoughts and hopes for K-State’s future and also why you’re not hearing much of anything coming from KU.
It’s not because the Kansas administration — and, remember, this whole thing will play out at the university and athletic department levels — is sitting on its hands and carrying on like it’s business as usual. Conversations are being had. Strategies are being considered. And there seems to be a strong and sincere confidence that KU will be fine — whatever that may mean — when all of this is settled.
You don’t have to like it, but it is a part of their strategy. And it’s probably a smart move.
If KU is going to land somewhere other than a revamped Big 12 Conference in the near future, it is not going to get there by rushing into an agreement now with schools that either aren’t, have not been or will not be power five type programs.
This has to be attacked from the long-range approach, not from what makes you feel safe and secure in the present.
Let’s take every KU fan’s biggest dream of seeing the school land in the Big Ten as an example.
It does not appear that there is anything concrete happening there at the moment. Nor has there been. That does not mean that things could not change if — or is it when? — the Big Ten decides to expand sometime in the future.
If KU were to lead the charge or even just throw its full support behind inviting new schools into the revamped Big 12, it could find itself locked into an agreement (like the soon-to-expire granting of rights deal) that extends for a decade or longer.
That would backfire big time if, in three or four years, the Big Ten came to KU and said, ‘Hey, you want in?’
The answer then would still be yes, but there would be exit fees and a big mess to work through to make it happen, much like the situation you’re seeing with Oklahoma and Texas today.
It might not be a popular approach among the fans, but waiting patiently, keeping all of your options open and, most importantly, not locking yourself into anything concrete for at least the next year or two seems like the smartest plan of attack for KU at this point.
That all changes if the Big Ten, or even the ACC, were to come to KU in three months with a formal invitation to join. But short of that happening, remaining fluid is the best move.