The Big 12 Conference has agreed to engage in discussions with its primary television partners, ESPN and FOX, more than 18 months earlier than expected, according to a report from ESPN.com’s Pete Thamel.
Shortly after Thamel's report surfaced Wednesday morning, the Big 12 Conference confirmed its position through a statement from first-year commissioner Brett Yormark.
“It is an exciting time for college athletics and given the changing landscape we welcome the opportunity to engage with our partners to determine if an early extension is in the best interest of all parties,” Yormark said in the statement. “The Big 12 has enjoyed a fantastic relationship with its multi-media rights holders, and I look forward to having these conversations.”
Officially, the conference said the Big 12 "will be entering into discussions with its multi-media partners to explore an accelerated extension of its current agreements."
Later in the day, Jon Wilner, who covers the Pac-12, reported that ESPN provided a statement telling him, “We regularly engage in conversation around the future with all of our partners, but to be clear, we have not opened the contractual negotiation window with the Big 12 at this time.”
The confusion there is likely a matter of semantics, with the Big 12 saying it "will be" entering into discussions with its television partners and ESPN saying the contractual negotiation window had not opened.
Both statements can be true and the two parties can still be moving forward into a period of discussion about the contracts.
The news is significant because it puts the Big 12 on equal ground with the Pac-12, which also is negotiating a new deal with the two television networks.
That, it would seem, negates whatever perceived advantage the Pac-12 had in terms of conference realignment and potential expansion. And it could open the door to the Big 12 being in a stronger position to entice potential additions should the league look to expand beyond the 12 members that will be in the Big 12 after the departure of Oklahoma and Texas and the arrival of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.
Both conferences have been active in projecting future revenue from their TV deals. But until this news, only the Pac-12 was in a position to present real data to its current members and potential new members.
Now, with the Big 12 opening that door, both conferences may be able to show actual numbers to their own members and any other schools that may be interested in joining.
While survival is an important objective of both conferences, the race really appears to be about positioning for the third slot among college football’s power conferences. The Big Ten and SEC have the top two spots locked up — and neither can be touched — and the Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC are battling to be No. 3.
Landing in the bronze medal position will not only be financially beneficial, but it also will present a significant amount of stability.
Yormark said during his introduction in July that the conference would be proactive and aggressive in its approach to all things, including potential expansion, and this news is certainly an indication of Yormark’s ability to put action behind those words.
None of this means the Big 12 is definitely expanding, of course. But many who cover and follow realignment have speculated that the Big 12 may be in a better position than the Pac-12 when it comes to projecting long-range television dollars for its new media rights deals. We may soon see if that was accurate.
The Big 12’s current TV deals expire after the 2024 football season and the negotiations were expected to begin in February of 2024.
Now, with the negotiation window open early, the conference essentially has two chances to strike the best deal possible, both for current members and potentially to entice new schools to join. The first could happen any time and could be a long-term deal or a short-term extension to buy some more time. The second opportunity would come in 2024 if the upcoming talks do not lead to anything that both sides like.
The most popular expansion chatter tied to the Big 12 has included Pac-12 schools Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah. Reports about the interest, or lack thereof, regarding all four schools have been all over the map, but there are obvious reasons that all four would make sense for the Big 12. Most notable is the addition of BYU and how adding those four along with BYU would give the Big 12 a stronger footprint out west.
If that foursome, or even just one or two of them, were to be invited to the Big 12 and elect to join, it could be a significant blow to the Pac-12’s future as a power conference.
The race has been under way for a while now, but it appears as if the two conferences have passed the settling in point and are actually starting to run.
The Big Ten, in conjunction with television partners CBS, NBC and FOX, agreed to a 7-year, $7 billion media rights partnership that will begin in 2023 and run through 2030.
The deal is the largest in the history of college football and it further cements the conference as the king of the castle in all of college athletics when it comes to broadcasting dollars.
It’s also no surprise whatsoever.
According to reports, the powers that be who brokered this deal believed this kind of money could be there even before the conference added USC and UCLA earlier this year. Once it did, therein bringing in the Los Angeles market to the conference’s already vast footprint beginning in 2024, it became a no-brainer that big money was on the way.
This deal, among other things, is the biggest reason why so many universities on the outside looking in have tried to position themselves to become more attractive to the Big Ten should it desire to expand further.
As it stands today, the Big Ten will grow to 16 members when the two L.A. schools join, and it’s entirely possible that the conference could look to add more — be it one, two or four schools — in the not-too-distant future.
This kind of money makes anything possible, and only further enhances the desire for everyone not already in the Big Ten to at least explore whether there’s any way they can join or be invited.
Universities in both the Pac-12 and Big 12 have been linked to potential Big Ten expansion, and there’s still independent power Notre Dame, which has its own television deal with NBC.
As for what this deal changes for Kansas, the answer may be very little.
KU still should do everything in its power to make itself an attractive option for the Big Ten — major improvements across the board with football will be the key here — and, short of getting in, Kansas should be as proactive as possible in positioning the Big 12 to be the third best conference in the Power 2 world.
Those two things were present before Thursday and will remain important well into the future.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the news about the Big Ten’s 7-billion-dollar deal:
• At roughly $1 billion per year in Tier I television revenue, there’s more than enough money there for the Big Ten to expand. Whether it wants to or not is akin to the Big 12 deciding it preferred to split the pie just 10 ways for the past several years instead of just expanding to expand. But there’s no doubt that the money is there. Once the Big Ten adds the two Los Angeles schools to get to 16, the math works out to $62.5 million per member. Again, that’s just for Tier 1 television dollars. The overall haul per school likely will be much higher than that with College Football Playoff dollars, NCAA Tournament money and Tier 3 rights also factoring into the big picture. Even when just considering the football TV money, though, that $62.5 million payout is roughly $20 million more than the Big 12 paid out in 2021 when it distributed a conference record $42.6 million to its 10 members. If the Big Ten wants to add more schools, money will not stop them. At 18 teams, that $1 billion pie becomes $55.6 million per school. And expanding to 20 teams — which likely is KU’s only shot of getting into the Big Ten — still leaves the payout at $50 million per school. There’s also the reported escalator clause in the deal, which allows for compensation to grow if the conference expands. Without having seen the contract, the guess here is that clause creates a cushion for expansion that would make room for each member to receive roughly the same amount ($62.5 million annually) that the 16 schools are slated to receive as of today.
• While the money is massive, the more interesting part to me is the television windows Big Ten games will fill in the future. There’s a standing Saturday night game, a Friday night option and countless other Saturday afternoon and evening games. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the Associated Press the structure was modeled after NFL Sundays, with three consecutive games shown on three separate networks, and that’s a reminder that, like the NFL on Sundays, the Big Ten has plans to dominate and saturate the space. ESPN is not involved with the conference, so there will still be plenty of time slots for the rest of the conferences, but the Big Ten will dominate network cable.
• The exact dollar value of the new Big Ten deal may not have any direct significance to the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 — we all knew they weren’t going to be able to keep up with the Big Ten and SEC anyway — but it’s still a scary time for those conferences. Here’s why. I read somewhere the other day that the Big Ten and SEC could be interested in expanding to the point where they relegate those three other Power 5 conferences to Group of 5 status. If both went to 20 schools, therein taking the 10 best from those other three conferences — six to the SEC and four more to the B1G — it would leave those other conferences looking a look like the American or Mountain West. That, so I’ve read, would open up the potential for the Big Ten and SEC to take up to 90-95% of the College Football Playoff money on a yearly basis, bringing to reality those conference’s dream of creating their own exclusive club that dominates financially and competes for the national title each year, outside of whatever the NCAA may or may not want to see happen. It’s possible that Kansas could crack that list of 10, but here’s a quick list of the schools that are all but certain to be on it, be it for the strength or their football, the size and splash of their media market or a combination of the two: Notre Dame, obviously; Clemson, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia from the ACC; and Colorado, Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12. That leaves a long list of other schools fighting for the final one or two spots. Again, that’s if both the Big Ten and SEC elect to expand to 20, but that’s still not good odds. Kansas is probably on that list, along with Arizona, Stanford, Louisville, possibly Boston College, TCU, maybe Texas Tech and West Virginia, Houston and Central Florida.
With ESPN time slots there for the taking, Big 12 should get aggressive in pursuit of standing as college football’s No. 3 conference
When news broke this week that ESPN had turned down a massive rights package offered by the Big Ten Conference — $380 million per year for seven years — my thoughts immediately turned to the Big 12.
Without the Big Ten in the mix for the first time in nearly 40 years, ESPN is going to need quality games and teams to fill a whole bunch of time slots.
And while that stands to be great news for the Big 12 and likely what’s left of the Pac-12 as well, the powers that be at Big 12 headquarters would be wise not to take anything for granted.
Rather than sitting back and waiting for ESPN to come to the Big 12 as a fallback solution when its next television rights deal is negotiated, the Big 12 should look for opportunities to be proactive in doing whatever it can to remind the network that not only does ESPN need the conference but it should want it, as well.
We’re still talking a few years down the road here, so there’s no need to scour this year’s schedules to point out the best games. But that time will come. And it can be addressed both by highlighting the best conference showdowns as well as by scheduling to create even more attractive options in the nonconference slate in the future.
If we’ve learned anything in the various rounds of realignment over the years it’s that the waiting game is for fools.
So fire up the full-court press to promote the conference’s media value. While the Big 12 might be locked out of top-three markets New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, it’s not as if Dallas (No. 5) and Houston (No. 8) are Dayton and Honolulu, which ranked No. 65 and 67, respectively, in the most recent Nielsen ratings.
Beyond that, in addition to adding Houston, the Big 12 also will be bringing in the 13th, 17th, 30th and 36th ranked TV markets — Tampa/St. Pete, Orlando, Salt Lake City and Cincinnati — when the four new programs join the conference one year before the current rights agreement expires.
That might not sound like powerhouse stuff. But nobody is pretending that the Big 12, on its own, can compete with the Big Ten or SEC in terms of market and media value any longer. On the field? You bet. And that’s another point for the Big 12 to drive home when selling itself to ESPN.
There’s no sense in leaving anything to chance here. Not this time around and not with the stakes as high as they are.
Just because most of the realignment headlines have involved college football’s power conferences, don’t think for a second that the so-called second tier isn’t constantly brainstorming ways to make itself more attractive in hopes of swooping in and collecting some of these mega millions that are now suddenly available.
Look no further than what’s happening at San Diego State (new stadium), Boise State (new stadium) and SMU (eye-popping NIL collective) for proof that the little guys are strategizing and ready and willing to make moves.
Sure, it might not seem likely that the American Athletic Conference or the Mountain West have the sizzle to become a power conference. But it also never seemed likely for UCLA and USC to be in the Big Ten, did it?
There’s good football being played in those smaller conferences and we already have seen what the power of marketing, branding and exposure can do for a sport, a team or a conference. It might not be what it once was, but don’t underestimate ESPN’s reach and power.
I can’t imagine that new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark will do so, and, for that reason — and others — the Big 12 is likely to remain in a good position moving forward. Yormark made it clear during his introduction in July that he's agressive-minded and willing to wheel and deal in whatever realms are best for the conference.
That type of leadership and approach should benefit the famously reactive conference, and it would be wise for the Big 12 and Yormark to stay aggressive in how they act and think.
After all, the race for bronze is still on, and even though the conference that finishes third in the future power rankings won’t be anywhere close to closing the gap on the Big Ten and SEC, it could benefit a great deal from a similarly sized gap between itself and the conferences sitting in fourth and fifth.
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff did his best to sound like a man with confidence in his conference’s future on Friday morning.
But anyone who’s been paying attention probably heard his words as desperate and defensive more than anything.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of people out there who believe the Pac-12 still has a chance to survive in the latest round of conference realignment chaos. And, who knows; it very well might.
But there’s also the possibility — it might even be likely at this point — that the conference is in serious trouble after the departures of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten.
It was the Big 12, which has been rumored to be a potential safe landing spot for at least some of the Pac-12’s 10 remaining universities, that drew most of Kliavkoff’s ire on Friday, as he made multiple jabs in that direction.
“With respect to the Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate that,” Kliavkoff said early in his remarks at Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles. “We haven’t decided whether we’re going shopping there or not.”
Those words, of course, came in response to new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark saying two weeks ago that the Big 12 was “open for business” at his conference’s media days.
It should be noted that Yormark made clear that his comment then was not solely about realignment and included all areas of business that could strengthen the Big 12. It’s also worth noting that Yormark was much more tactful with his words when asked about realignment.
Rather than targeting or referencing any other conferences, he simply said the powers that be within the Big 12 were evaluating all options and that if the conference made any moves in terms of expansion it would come from the position of adding value and not watering down the conference just for the sake of expanding.
As things progressed on Friday, Kliavkoff became even feistier, saying he had spent the last four weeks “trying to defend against grenades being lobbed in from every corner of the Big 12 trying to destabilize our remaining conference.”
He added: “I understand why they’re doing it, when you look at the relative media value between the two conferences. I get it. I get why they’re scared, why they’re trying to destabilize it.”
With all due respect to Mr. Kliavkoff, who is, after all, in just his second year in college athletics, I’m not so sure it’s the Big 12 that sounds scared here.
It’s hard to blame anyone in the Pac-12 for being a little on edge right now. The conference is in serious danger of falling apart and there are several reports out there that indicate that the 10 members that remain in the conference are more divided than united.
So Kliavkoff had to do something on Friday that made it look like he and his conference were operating from a position of strength. I’m just not sure that throwing stones at the Big 12 and acting like a big, bad bully actually did that.
Isn’t it the Big Ten, or even ESPN and possibly the SEC, that Kliavkoff should really be angry with? After all, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren flat-out said just this week that his conference had not closed the door on expansion.
And, if the Big Ten does expand again, there are plenty who believe that Pac-12 programs Oregon, Stanford and Washington are on the short list of most likely candidates to get gob-bled up.
But, sure, go ahead and play tough guy with the Big 12, George. It’s already been made crystal clear by your two flagship programs that the Pac-12 and Big Ten aren’t in the same league so there’s no use in trying to punch up.
Some people surely bought into Kliavkoff’s approach on Friday. And maybe he made a corner of Pac-12 country feel better about the current state of things with his comments. He really had no choice but to at least try to make some kind of a splash. His conference’s survival is on the line.
In addition to going after the Big 12, Kliavkoff also noted that the Pac-12 was actively exploring expansion opportunities. Again, it seemed as if that was said to make it sound as if the Pac-12 is in control here. Most believe the opposite is true, though.
It’s already been made clear that no one from the Big 12 is interested in leaving for the Pac-12. And talk of a coastal merger between the Pac-12 and the ACC didn’t seem to have any real steam behind it either. That leaves programs like San Diego State, Boise State, Fresno State, SMU and Memphis, among others, as the best schools available for the Pac-12 to scoop up if expansion is deemed necessary.
Say what you will about the current Big 12 roster, but all four of the programs the Big 12 is bringing in (BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida) — and others, if the Big 12 adds anybody from the current Pac-12 lineup — are more attractive and add more value than any of the schools mentioned above.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Kliavkoff certainly seemed desperate on Friday.
Here was a man lamenting that the collegiality of college athletics had been compromised in recent weeks taking direct shots at another conference.
He even walked that back a little, saying at one point that he was “just tired” of the talk of the Big 12 potentially swiping Pac-12 programs and that those rumors inspired his comments on Friday morning.
“That’s probably not the most collegial thing I’ve ever said,” he added.
Tough times out west. We'll see how much longer they last.
Realignment battle lines continue to be drawn by conference commissioners; it’s adjust now or regret it later
It’s musical chairs if we’ve ever seen it in the world of college athletics, with big time schools in major conferences carefully walking around the circle desperately hoping that there will be a chair for them to land on when the music stops.
While this latest round of conference realignment has brought about more wild rumors and speculation than ever before — I know; hard to believe, right? — it seems that this stretch is about much more than just teams trading conferences and mailing addresses.
College athletics is in the middle of a major shift. Rules have been erased and restrictions lightened. Players are now able to cash in on countless name, image and likeness opportunities. And rosters, in all sports, are being reshaped at the college ranks the way free agency redid the look of pro sports.
Holding on to the ways of the past will not work and it’s critical that coaches, administrators, athletes and others — think parents, media outlets, fans, etc. — show the ability to adjust to whatever it is that lies ahead.
Earlier this week, at the Big Ten’s annual media days, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said as much while discussing the conference’s expansion plans and the addition of USC and UCLA.
In short, Warren said he was not interested in closing the door on expansion and it was the adjust-or-else approach that was at the heart of his comments.
“From a strategy standpoint, this is not the old college athletics,” Warren said in a statement that sounded obvious but still seems to be hard for some to grasp. “For the individuals and the conferences and schools that are not thinking that way, they’re going to be Sears and Roebuck. That’s straight, blunt. That’s where this deal is going. We have about three or four more years of perpetual disruption. During that period, either you’re going to embrace change and build a business and get stronger, or not.”
There’s so much to unpack in that one statement. But as a whole, it’s pretty direct.
Whether you’re talking about extinction through the Sears reference or the promise of unending disruption, Warren made it clear to whoever wanted to hear it that now is the time to prepare to make adjustments, rethink the norms and get used to a new way of doing business. And, yes, business was an important word in there.
Although Warren spoke from a position of power and security, his comments were not that far off from those uttered by new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark a couple of weeks earlier.
Yormark also emphasized business in his introductory remarks at Big 12 media days, and he sounded like a leader who would be willing to do whatever he needed to do, considering any and all initiatives and ideas that come his way, to ensure that the Big 12 Conference is as strong as possible as it enters this new era.
Action will matter far more than words when it comes to the Big 12’s future. But fans of the conference, as well as the 10 members currently in it, the four coming on board next year and any schools out there (Pac-12 or otherwise) that might be considering it as a landing spot in the madness, should feel good about how closely Yormark’s approach lines up with Warren’s words.
To a lesser degree, the same goes for Kansas fans and the vision and approach of second-year athletic director Travis Goff.
Both men understand that the future is not tied to the status quo or longing for the days of old. That ship has sailed. Michigan will never play USC in the Rose Bowl again. Money is undeniably king now. And many people have stopped the pretending. Four-year players, in all sports, will become more and more rare as the years pass by. For goodness’ sake, the Kansas men’s golf team just lost a key player to the transfer portal. And he transferred to conference rival (for now) Oklahoma of all places.
The powers that be are telling these kids that the time has come for them to get theirs and worry about the rest later.
The conferences that follow that advice will likely be the ones that survive and thrive in the new world.
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff is slated to speak at 10 a.m. Friday at his conference’s media day in Los Angeles. Awwkwaaard.
Pay close attention to Kliavkoff’s words and you just might find a few clues for how much longer the Pac-12 that we know today will be around.
Could an unequal revenue sharing model calm the conference realignment waters or is it too late for that line of thinking?
As conversations continue about the Big 12 Conference and Pac-12 seeking survival and to thrive, a thought popped into my head while watching the final hole of the British Open of all things.
Why not pay schools what they earn instead of having the television rights revenue equally distributed among all of the members of the conference?
It might be a bit of a challenging and even controversial approach. And perhaps there’s an obvious reason to avoid it that I’m overlooking.
But as Rory McIlroy stood over his second-to-last putt of the tournament last Sunday in St. Andrews, Scotland, there was money on the line, just like there could be for every school in potentially every sport in major college athletics.
Had he made the putt McIlroy would’ve tied for second, which would have netted him a couple hundred thousand dollars more in prize money.
Instead, McIlroy missed and settled for par, which left him all alone in third place and with a prize of $933,000. Cameron Young, who finished in second place, brought home $1.46 million.
As you all know, football is what drives conference realignment. So, if such a proposal came down to a vote today, you can bet that KU would vote against it — at least for the time being.
Still, it feels like there’s a formula here that might keep everyone happy. The reason first is simple. You get what you earn. In many ways, that’s at the core of what sports is all about and it only makes sense to tie that philosophy to the financial side of things.
After all, that’s how it works at the professional level. And while I know there are still quite a few of you out there who want to scream and shout about how college athletics is not pro sports, the goings on of the past year have cut into that argument quite a bit, eh?
No one is buying that college sports are amateur athletics any longer. So if you’re going to pay players and have endorsement deals and have television revenue drive the whole thing, you might as well adopt some other professional principles, as well.
It seems like it’s all headed that way anyway.
For fun, here’s a look at what this model could have meant for the Big 12 Conference had it been in place during the past year.
As you may know, the Big 12 paid out a record $426 million to its 10 member schools for last year, resulting in a haul of $42.6 million per institution.
Basing the model around the idea that last place gets no less than half of what first place gets, here’s how the payouts would have been handled for the last school year.
1st place - $64M (15%)
2nd place - $53M (12.25%)
3rd place - $49M (11.25%)
4th place - $43M (10%)
5th place - $43M (10%)
6th place - $38M (9%)
7th place - $37M (8.75%)
8th place - $35M (8.25%)
9th place - $34M (8%)
10th place - $32M (7.5%)
As you can see, the top five schools all received at least what equal distribution would have produced, with first place netting more than $20 million more than that $42.6 million figure and second and third place picking up some extra cash, as well.
The schools that finished 6th through 10th all would have made less than the $42.6 million but not by a crippling amount.
What’s more, while losing $10 million from the equal distribution would not have been fun for the 10th-place school — in this case Kansas — it’s not as if wholesale changes would have to take place within an athletic department to account for it.
Tightening of the belt here and cost-saving measures there would make it manageable, and the beauty of the format is that it can also be made up in future years by improving your standing in the rankings.
Again, there’s probably some really obvious reason for this not to be the favored approach. And it may be as simple as not enough schools like it.
But in an era where all things are being and have to be considered, this doesn’t seem quite as crazy as it might have in years past.
After all, if the Pac-12 had adopted something similar to this model years ago, maybe USC and UCLA would not have left and those schools would not currently be fighting for their power conference lives. Who knows? Texas and OU might not be leaving the Big 12 either.
It seems like we've gone too far for this to be a viable solution, but perhaps this line of thinking could help stem the tide.
After a relatively quiet couple of weeks on the conference realignment stage, things could again be heating up in a significant way.
That news, provided it’s true, swings the control back to the Big 12 and puts the Pac-12 in perhaps its most vulnerable position yet.
The reason? Just because Big 12 officials communicated that they were not interested in a full merger does not mean that the Big 12 is not interested in expanding by raiding the Pac-12.
Given the fact that it is known that the Pac-12 has been negotiating its next media rights deal this month, this latest stance seems to suggest that the Big 12 has enough intel to assume that the Pac-12, as a whole, does not add enough value to the negotiating table and, therefore, that some Pac-12 schools need the Big 12. Reports from out west certainly indicate that, as well.
Jason Scheer, who covers Arizona for the 247 Sports network, tweeted on Monday night that there is “a major fracture” in the Pac-12, adding “it’s ugly” to the tweet.
There’s no doubt that the remaining Pac-12 schools who were left high and dry by USC and UCLA bolting to the Big Ten made the right move by trying to stick together and exploring whether the conference could survive. If any other schools leave now, though, it’s hard to see that happening, at least not in the form some of the remaining Pac-12 schools would like to see.
Reports have suggested that the number of Pac-12 schools that are holding out hope that the league survives as a Power 5 entity may be smaller than once believed and could be diminishing by the day.
Others have indicated that Colorado — as it was when it became the first to leave the Big 12 a decade ago — actually could be the first current Pac-12 school to jump, this time rejoining the Big 12 should a formal invitation be extended.
For weeks, it was believed that the so-called “four corners schools” — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — could be at the top of the Big 12’s wish list if it were to target the Pac-12 for expansion candidates.
While much of that time was spent believing that group was a packaged deal, the idea that Colorado could jump first, with or without the other three, is not crazy. Just as was the case in the first round or realignment, when CU jumped to the Pac-10 in an effort to survive, the opposite move could be made this time around, with survival again the goal.
Utah makes sense for the Big 12 because of its strong football brand, its mountain time zone home base (as opposed to the more difficult west coast time) and its proximity to those other three Pac-12 schools, along with incoming Big 12 program BYU.
If the Pac-12 finds itself on the type of unstable ground that it appears it might, Utah’s interest in joining the Big 12 sooner rather than later certainly could increase.
It’s looking more and more like the Big 12 might the best landing spot for Arizona State, whether that's today or in the near future. And Arizona and Arizona State sticking together during whatever moves are made only makes sense.
As for how any of this could impact Kansas, nothing has really changed there. The Jayhawks would benefit from a strong and revamped Big 12 Conference no matter how it is formed. If the Big 12 were to snatch the four-corners schools, Kansas and the rest of the existing Big 12 would certainly be headed toward much more restful nights in the near future.
While it remains to be seen just exactly how large the Big 12 pie could grow during its next media rights negotiations in 2024, there is reason to believe the number could be significant enough to support a 16-team conference while still paying out upwards of $60-$70 million to each member on an annual basis.
While that would still trail the mega-millions dished out by the Big Ten and SEC, it would be far greater than what any Big 12 school is bringing in today — the most recent payout for 2021 was a Big 12 record $42.6 million per member — and it also would firmly position the Big 12 as either the bronze medalist in the realignment race or at the top of the second tier of conferences.
How you view that is a matter of perspective, but both realities paint a very promising picture for the future of the Big 12 and the schools in it.
Remember, when new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark noted that the conference was “open for business” last week during his official introduction at Big 12 media days, he vowed to get creative in making the conference younger, hipper, cooler, and also noted that any moves the conference would make would be additive and not dilutive.
Simply put, if the Big 12 moves forward by adding schools from the Pac-12 — regardless of which ones they are — you can bet it will be doing so with the understanding that those schools, be it one, two, four, six or more, bring added value to the Big 12’s brand and business and create a stronger bargaining position for the conference heading into its next media rights negotiation in the not-too-distant future.
Some people who have been following the realignment race with a special eye toward the Big 12’s next media rights deal believe that Big 12 football could soon be on as many as four networks and three streaming services.
Younger, hipper, cooler. And better.
During Big 12 introduction, new commissioner Brett Yormark illustrates why he was the right hire at the right time
It remains to be seen what happens with the conference’s roster and whether more universities join or even leave the Big 12 in the years to come.
But regardless of what the lineup looks like now or in the future, the conference seems to be in terrific shape for a move into the new era of college athletics with new commissioner Brett Yormark in charge.
Yormark met with Big 12 media members for the first time on Wednesday and he painted a clear picture of who he is, what he believes in and where he sees the Big 12 going.
His unofficial tag line of building the Big 12’s “brand and business” was a terrific indicator of exactly where his head is at as he jumps into this new endeavor.
With expansion a possibility and survival a must, building a stronger and better-than-ever Big 12 will be critical for all of the conference’s members, current and future. But it won’t happen without a businesslike approach, and Yormark is well prepared for both layers of leading this conference.
Look no further than his work with the Brooklyn Nets for proof of that.
Yormark, who comes to Big 12 country after a successful stint as an executive on the commercial side of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment agency, mentioned the Nets during his introduction on Wednesday.
While the Big 12 is not in the same dire straits that the franchise formerly stuck in mediocrity in New Jersey once was, the evolution of the Nets, from uninspiring, overlooked NBA franchise to global brand at the heart of a revitalization in Brooklyn, New York, is the same kind of path that Yormark believes is possible for the Big 12.
Yormark joined the Nets in 2005 and led the move to Brooklyn in 2012. Like that rebranding effort, which was energized by Jay-Z and the construction of Barclays Center, Yormark believes the Big 12 can become more of a national brand while also getting “a little younger, hipper, cooler.”
Dan Beebe thought he was doing that more than a decade ago. But nobody was buying it.
Bob Bowlsby’s time on the job brought stability, respectability and professionalism back to the Big 12, even if it was of the quiet and cautious type.
Now it’s time for the next step and a modern-day approach.
Yormark said he admired everything Bowlsby did for the conference and added that he felt he was being handed the baton at a perfect time. But don’t be surprised for a second if the new Big 12 looks more like something run by Jay-Z than Jay Leno.
“We will be bold and humble, aggressive and thoughtful and innovative and creative, all in an effort to position the conference in a way that not only grows the Big 12 brand and business but makes us a bit more contemporary,” Yormark said Wednesday.
All of that is ideal for a conference that is at a significant crossroads, both internally and within the larger landscape of college athletics.
The hiring of Yormark in and of itself came from some outside-the-box thinking and was deserving of praise immediately. But now that we’ve had a chance to hear from him, it’s even more clear that hiring Yormark was the exact right thing at the exact right time.
For starters, he has significant experience in the space that the conference — and all of college athletics — soon will be operating in on a more full-time basis.
Like it or not, entertainment value, technological advances and, yes, money, will all soon be every bit as important as final scores, recruiting wins and coaching contracts. And we’re probably there already.
It’s not just Yormark’s resume that makes him the perfect fit, though.
There’s also his demeanor, approach and competitiveness. He seems like a man who is up for any and all challenges and, more importantly, one who will put the best interest of the Big 12 above everything else, regardless of how it looks or what others are saying. The ability to do that without issue comes from his confidence and track record.
He already has extensive plans to visit Big 12 campuses and study data points to plan the conference’s next moves. But he also made it clear that the conference, and therefore he, were “open for business” in the meantime — in all areas.
What exactly that means and how that winds up benefiting the Big 12 remains to be seen. But those are exactly the types of people and personalities you need and want in the room when you’re negotiating mega-million-dollar broadcasting deals, which the Big 12 will be doing in the next two or three years.
Yormark will enter into those negotiations with a clear goal and a plan to attack rather than settle and with fresh ideas and a willingness to take risks.
That’s something the Big 12 hasn’t seen much of during the past couple of decades, and it’s something the conference is going to need as it moves forward toward what it hopes will be a bright and lucrative future.
One of the biggest developments on a busy Tuesday in the conference realignment world came later in the day, when reports surfaced that the Pac-12 and ACC were at least discussing some kind of alliance to bring stability and more money to members of both conferences.
It’s a worthwhile endeavor because, at this point, nothing is too outlandish, unreasonable or outrageous to consider.
But an alliance is an option, not an answer.
And no matter how far the conversations go, I just can’t see that path having legs.
For starters, we just saw an informal alliance between the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten fail miserably. That was more of a gentleman’s agreement than anything. And it had mostly to do with scheduling. But the idea was that the three Power 5 conferences would work together to combat the power move made by the SEC when it plucked Oklahoma and Texas away from the Big 12.
They didn't even make it a year before one of them — the Big Ten — decided to devour the shiniest pieces in another, in USC and UCLA.
So save the alliance chatter for the message boards. Unless there’s a formal agreement and a contract, it’s probably not worth much. And even then, we’re learning more and more all the time that contracts can be broken.
One of the popular theories behind why the ACC would want to make such a move is to encourage/push its television partner, ESPN, to come to the table with more money. But we already know that the remaining members of the Pac-12 don’t carry as much value alone as they did with the two Los Angeles schools on board. Beyond that, ESPN does not have much incentive — if any — to even consider coughing up more dough with the ACC’s rights agreement in place through 2036.
File this one under the “it never hurts to ask” category, but don’t expect ESPN to actually consider it. If you’re the ACC and you can show the network a move that brings significant added value, then maybe. But even then they wouldn’t have to do it.
Beyond any of that, the biggest reason I don’t see the possible alliance as a viable move is because of the state of the college athletics landscape.
This much we know: If Notre Dame will go, the Big Ten will have them. And if that happens, it likely would trigger another set of falling dominoes that could include schools from the Pac-12 and almost certainly would include North Carolina joining the Irish in the Big Ten.
That, of course, would inspire the SEC to respond — if they had not done so already — and three of the more likely candidates for SEC expansion, should it happen, also currently call the ACC home, in Clemson, Florida State and Miami.
Why would any network be interested in ponying up more money if (a) the conference it’s paying remains on unstable ground and (b) the conference that’s asking for more, should further defections occur, would not even be worth its current rights deal down the road?
It wouldn’t. It won’t.
It was suggested to me on Twitter that the three power conferences on the outside looking in blow it all up and take the best of the bunch to form a new 20-team super conference while leaving the dead weight behind.
And while that draft would be super fun and could collect millions as part of a made-for-television, blowout event, that wouldn’t solve anything either because that new conference, whatever it's called and whichever schools it included, still would have anywhere from 5-10 schools that had the potential to jump to the Big Ten or SEC if they were asked.
And let’s face it; we’ve reached the point where just about anyone who is asked would join the Big Ten or SEC in a second and never look back.
All of this underscores the one point that is most important here as it relates to the Big 12 Conference.
The longer they wait to strike — whether their moves work or not — the more time others have to find alternate solutions.
People from coast to coast are working on this around the clock, and while this Pac-12-ACC alliance might not be the answer that saves any of them, the one that does could be just around the corner.
It’s the Big 12’s job to make sure the Pac-12 and ACC never find it.
There were more significant moves from both the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences on Tuesday, as the two leagues continued to scramble to find their footing in the latest round of conference realignment.
The stage has been set for an all-out brawl, and it appears as if both sides are ready to rumble.
Tuesday morning, the Pac-12 released a statement that indicated that the conference had authorized its leaders to immediately begin negotiations for its next media rights agreement. The current deal is set to expire in 2024, one year before the Big 12’s current television rights deal expires in 2025.
This came just four days after conference officials authorized league leaders to explore all of its expansion options in the wake of UCLA and USC announcing their move to the Big Ten.
While the negotiations could take weeks and may not actually lead to anything, this is still a significant move. If nothing else, it serves as an announcement that the Pac-12 has joined the race for relevance and provides notice that the Big 12, should it choose to expand, will not simply be handed anything.
The Pac-12 may have fewer needle-moving options and less overall appeal than the Big 12, but the conference is clearly not going down without a fight. Just like the Big 12 refused to do during the previous two rounds of major conference realignment. Somehow, the Big 12 survived both of those.
Doing so a third time may not come without swift and significant action by the Big 12 Conference and new leader Brett Yormark, whose official start date is still nearly a month out on Aug. 1. Don’t think for a second, though, that the new Big 12 boss has not been involved at a very meaningful level in the conversations currently taking place within the conference.
To that end, a little later in the day on Tuesday, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported that the Big 12 Conference was “involved in deep discussions to add multiple Pac-12 programs as a way to shore up its membership.”
While Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah have recently been tied to the Big 12 as possible additions, Dodd’s report also named Oregon and Washington as potential expansion candidates for the Big 12.
It remains to be seen whether those two programs, which also have been rumored to be targets of the Big Ten albeit at a lat-er date, would be interested in joining the Big 12. But if you’re the Big 12, and you deem that their value is strong enough to keep your television revenue pie divided equally at a high enough rate to make everyone happy, you absolutely should at least make them say no.
The risk lies with them on this. Even just offering those two additional schools a spot in a strengthened Big 12 paints the conference in a position of power. And that, for now, is the easy and early answer to the Pac-12 making its first move in this race.
The key is action. In past rounds of realignment, the Big 12 has shown a preference for patience. But the landscape is different today than it was then. The stakes are higher, as well.
Survival and key positioning in the power conference hierarchy are on the line this time. There is still room for smart and strategic planning as long as it’s paired with swift action. But sit-ting on your hands this time around could be catastrophic.