Big 12 decides not to expand

Two people who have been briefed on the Big 12’s decision tell The Associated Press that the conference is not planning on expansion.

The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the conference had planned an announcement later Monday and had asked the schools involved not to speak publicly.

The decision came down after a six-hour meeting with university presidents and Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. A news conference is still planned for 5:30 p.m. with Bowlsby and Oklahoma President David Boren.

Bowlsby called the schools hoping to be added to the Big 12 to inform them of the board’s decision.

Big 12 officials held interviews in September with Air Force, BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Connecticut, Houston, Rice, South Florida, SMU and Tulane.

Renu Khator, UH President and UH System Chancellor, released the following statement:

“The Big 12’s decision in no way changes the mission of the University of Houston that began long before there was talk of conference expansion.  UH is a diverse, Tier One research institution that is on the move.  We remain committed to strengthening our nationally competitive programs in academics and athletics that allow our student athletes to compete on the national stage.  We are confident that in this competitive collegiate athletics landscape an established program with a history of winning championships and a demonstrated commitment to talent and facilities in the nation’s fourth largest city will find its rightful place.  Our destiny belongs to us.”

Hunter Yurachek, UH Vice President of Athletics, also released a statement:

“Today’s news is not just about the University of Houston and the Big 12 Conference, it’s about the evolving landscape of collegiate athletics. It does not, and will not, deter our mission of building champions for life. Our goals, which were in place long before expansion conversation began, will not change. As a progressive Tier One institution that places a competitive emphasis on both academics and athletics, the University of Houston will continue to operate in the national spotlight in one of the nation’s premier athletic conferences and dynamic cities.”

UH Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta also reacted to the Big 12's decision in a Skype interview with KHOU's Daniel Gotera.

The Big 12 has been analyzing expansion options for the last three months, but it never made a commitment to adding to its 10 members.

The Big 12 has been tossing around the idea of expansion for almost two years as it tries to find ways to increase revenue and improve the conference’s chances to make the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 was left out of the first CFP in 2014, but conference champion Oklahoma made the playoff last season.

Boren has said the Big 12 was “psychologically disadvantaged” by being the smallest Power Five league and the only one without a football championship game.

This past offseason, expansion talk got fired up again. The Big 12 announced it was bringing back its football championship game in 2017, no matter what its composition. But with only 10 teams, a title game is not a natural fit.

In June, the conference announced record payouts to members of $30 million each, and expansion talk again seemed to fade.

In July, the presidents were briefed by consultants who explained how the conference could increase its playoff chances by adding schools and increase its revenue. The Big 12’s TV contracts call for ESPN and Fox to increase their payouts to the conference so that any new member would be making what the current members are making, which is about $25 million.

It was after that last board meeting that the Big 12 announced the presidents had given Bowlsby the go-ahead to do a deep-dive on expansion and possible candidates. Boren and Bowlsby said the conference would consider adding two or four new members. Or none.

Two new members would mean an extra $50 million in TV revenue per season for the Big 12 on contracts that runs through 2025. And the current members would share the majority of that money at first. TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, but they did not receive full revenue shares until this year.

The networks have not been keen on the idea of paying the Big 12 to add schools.

“We don’t think expansion in the Big 12 is a good idea for the conference. We think it will be dilutive to the product in the short term. In the long term, it’s probably harmful to the future of the conference,” Fox Sports President Eric Shanks said earlier this month at Sports Media and Technology conference, according to the Sports Business Journal.

The networks could offer the Big 12 a smaller increase in rights fees and possibly an extension on its TV deal for not expanding.


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