DALLAS (AP) — The Big 12’s university presidents and Commissioner Bob Bowlsby are meeting in Dallas to discuss the possibility of adding teams to the conference.
A news conference is planned for 5:30 p.m. Monday with Bowlsby and Oklahoma President David Boren.
The Big 12 has been analyzing expansion options for the last three months, but it has made no commitment to adding to its 10 members and could stand pat.
Big 12 officials held interviews in September with 11 potential new members: Air Force, BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Connecticut, Houston, Rice, South Florida, SMU and Tulane.
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.
What the conference presidents will decide to do is impossible to predict. Even the athletic directors in the Big 12 are unsure which way this will go.
“I guess we’ll all find out for sure at the 5:30 press conference,” West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons said Monday morning before he left for Dallas.
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