Realignment Today: Reports indicate Big 12 zeroing in on making a serious push to expand with 4 schools


In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, a Big 12 pylon marks the end zone at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Texas and Kansas State in Austin, Texas.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, a Big 12 pylon marks the end zone at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Texas and Kansas State in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

It had been building steam throughout the past couple of weeks, but it now appears to be nearing lock status.

According to multiple reports, the Big 12 Conference has zeroed in on BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida as four top candidates for expansion.

In fact, Brett McMurphy, of Action Network, reported Friday that a source with knowledge of the Big 12’s thinking told him that there are currently no other targets.

A Thursday report from The Athletic noted that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby paid a visit to the Houston campus to discuss expansion plans.

And several other reports dating back to last week indicated that the Big 12 had zeroed in on BYU as its top choice in potential expansion.

All four programs bring good football, national brands and the potential for growth.

Cincinnati, Houston and UCF all have played in at least one New Year’s Six bowl game in the past six seasons. And BYU, which finished 11-1 in 2020, ended last season ranked No. 11 in the final Associated Press poll.

A source told McMurphy that the Big 12 decision makers viewed TV audience, football status and market size as the three most important factors in their discussions of which schools to add. But, McMurphy also reported that each school’s basketball brand carried significant weight, with the Big 12 putting 75% of its considerations toward football and the remaining 25% on basketball.

Even combined, however, they’re not likely to be deemed as valuable as Oklahoma and Texas, which are planning to leave the Big 12 in 2025 upon the expiration of the current grant of rights agreement among the 10 teams in the conference today.

Still, for a conference on shaky ground, moving quickly to bring stability with four pretty solid schools can only be viewed as a win. For now.

The long-term impact of these moves remains unknown. While Bowlsby said this week that the Big 12 ADs expressed a desire to stick together and focus on rebuilding a strong Big 12 for the future, the potential for any of the existing members to look to move elsewhere figures to remain in place for at least a little while.

For one, none of these moves to add the top four candidates will be effective immediately. McMurphy’s report indicated that formal invitations to the four schools could go out this month. But even that would not pave the way for them to be in the Big 12 anytime soon.

BYU, as an independent in football and a member of the West Coast Conference in other sports, may have the easiest time transitioning if things do in fact go this way.

But in order for the other three schools to leave the American Athletic Conference, they would need to go through a process similar to the one OU and UT are currently facing, with required notice, exit fees and more.

McMurphy’s report said a source told him that BYU could be in the Big 12 as soon as 2022, with the other three schools possibly joining a year later.

All of that would leave time for the current Big 12 schools to field offers, explore options and even sell themselves to one of the other power conferences that likely will move into the new era of college athletics significantly ahead of whatever the revamped Big 12 looks like in terms of dollars and TV contracts.

That’s not to say the Big 12 couldn’t be a safe space. It probably won’t come close to the $35-40 million member payouts currently enjoyed under the existing television deals. But it’s possible that this new group could find a partner (or perhaps multiple partners) that deem the new-look league to be worth $20 million annually or so.

For Kansas, and the rest of the remaining eight, that would be a better outcome than falling into the Mountain West Conference or even the AAC, but obviously not as good as landing a spot in one of the four other power conferences.

The question moving forward will be simple: Do those other conferences (a) want or (b) feel the need to expand.

Time will tell on that. And the answer may very well be no. At least for a while.

If that’s the case, KU would do well to get on board with this Big 12 expansion for stability's sake while protecting its own interests by quietly continuing to explore what options are available and by keeping any new TV contract to a minimum if they need to sign one at all.

It’s likely that any new deal or agreement with a television partner would include a composition clause of some kind to protect the interests of the Big 12 against future departures by any of its members.

Adjustments to and renegotiations of media contracts has been a regular part of the college athletics landscape in recent years, and, for the Big 12, it almost has to be a part of the equation moving forward.


Doug Roberts 10 months ago

Like others have said on here, if youre going to expand, EXPAND! Just doing the bare minimum of adding 4 to get to twelve isn't enough to stay relevant. Add 4 more for a total of 16 and coast to coast timezone coverage.

Spencer Goff 10 months ago

I was mulling around teams to get to 12, 14 and 16 because I felt like you did. The four they are discussing now I feel like are no brainers and belong in a P5. But it thins out a bit after that and I started to back away from adding up to 14 or 16. I kinda agree with Gary in steps, take the four sure bets, and see who builds up of the rest as time moves on? Don't know, debatable for sure, but glad to see they are at least starting to churn.

Ted Hume 10 months ago

that's absurd. how much do you want to water down a conference clinging to "power-five" status by adding 8 (8!!!) non-power 5 teams? we've just end up being AAC 2.0

The current plan for 4 with the assumption that WV probably needs to jump to the ACC is very solid and keeps us relevant. Much has been written about the great benefits those 4 schools bring to the table in regard to student populations, athletic dept. budgets, markets, etc. It absolute lunacy to talk about bringing in a whole bunch of lesser programs in the name of simple being "bigger"

Spencer Goff 10 months ago

My guess is, they are working out how to do this and still get UT and OUs money. I think it's a done deal with those four plus our eight. So basically it's when the lawyers say they can.

Personally, I like the idea of that twelve team conference if the rumored schools are accurate. My guess is there would be an east/west division spread across three time zones with what should be solid TV matchups every week in both major sports (while this is an excellent football conference, it somehow got even better as a basketball conference).

And Huggins gets to go back to Cincinnati. Will be a lot of mixed emotions for those folks.

People thought I was trolling when I said that Wichita State was in danger of losing their conference by attrition. Not the case at all, I do not wish them ill will, but I knew if these eight did not break up they would poach the top of the AAC and form a solid conference, and it appears it is imminent. The rest of the AAC are assuredly making plans going forward but it may not involve non-football schools, time will tell.

Suzi Marshall 10 months ago

I doubt many will regret UT leaving the Big 12, especially the new people from UH. OU is an entirely different story and will be sorely missed. I predict now that the Sooners will regret the move and the fan base will demand a return to the Big 12.

Brian Skelly 10 months ago

I think adding this group will help us maintain our status as an "autonomy 5" as well. Is it going to be a hit financially? Yup. For KU as much as anyone. We probably have the largest revenues after OU and UT leave. Not sure what this means other than a lot of schools are going to have to cut back budgets in their AD.

Dirk Medema 10 months ago

Brian - We definitely have the 3rd largest budget.

For us, a key is keeping the tier 3 tv rights. As much as some hate the viewing options or lack thereof, it’s definitely a $$$ maker for us.

It would also seem that adding schools ahead of time forces the issue with ut/ou. The pot of $ isn’t going to grow significantly but it will be split into smaller servings. Might be just the motivation they need to break out the checkbook.

Brian Skelly 10 months ago

It's been reported (5pm Friday) that those four schools have ALL pursued their applications to the Big 12 already.

Rodney Crain 10 months ago

Its Manna from Heaven, if I were them, I would FedEx the Application. UH no issue, they should have been invited a few years ago. BYU, ok, but they are out of the way for everyone else, we are all Long Road Trips for them. Does the next Version of the Virgin semi-space plane seat 30? Cinn. No issue, should have been invited a few years ago. UCF is a total reach, literally and as a School to invite.

Kevin Woods 10 months ago

With those schools it’s almost like Ut and Ou never left. /s

Rodney Crain 10 months ago

The B12 - the only Conference in 3 time zones! Only conference with Schools 1900 miles apart, or if you prefer North to South travel 1000 miles apart.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 10 months ago

At least UWV would gain a travel partner but, if this happens, the league will have two geographic anomalies in BYU and UCF instead of just one. I still like the 16 team, four pod idea better but this is a start at least.

Kenneth Johnson 10 months ago

Central Florida??? While the other three are second-tier, CFU sounds like bottom of the barrel. Really sounds like something Bowlsby would pick. He let the OU/TU mess occur and now is trying to make amends with adding Central Florida.

When is the Big 12 going to finally get rid of that dud?

Ted Hume 10 months ago

CFU has a huge athletic dept. budget, great facilities, a much stronger football program than ours, and oh yeah, like 40,000 + students and a huge alumni population = money. oh, i forgot, let's throw in the state of florida as a new media market. check, check, check, and check...

Eric TheCapn 10 months ago

Rodney, I have to agree with your snark. Central Florida? Seriously? If this happens, they've proven one and for all that no one involved cares one titch about academics not the well-being of student-athletes. "Enjoy another 14 hours of travel in two days, swimmers; we have some Ford F150s to sell... AND we get 4x less ad revenue than the other conferences. 🤷‍♂️

Rodney Crain 10 months ago

100% agree Eric. It sounds rushed, it does not make sense, and it feels wrong. But what can we expect from the "Einsteins" that self appointed themselves to fix this mess? I don't have a better solution, right now, but didn't anyone in the group read Matt's Patience article? He worked hard on it. :)

Robert Brock 10 months ago

The Big 12 desperately seeks commuter-schools. Why not add Long Beach State and the University of North Texas?

Lee Stanford 10 months ago

I am pleased with this slate of prospective additions. Yet I would like to see them add Memphis and Boise State as well to go to fourteen members.

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