After months of meetings, presentations, video conferences, etc., the Big 12 Conference decided Monday to take expansion off the table with the conference staying at 10 schools.
With the way things have gone over the past year — school presidents flip-flopping on what they think they actually want — nobody really knew what to expect during the Big 12’s press conference Monday afternoon.
But now that expansion is off the table, here are several reasons why the Big 12 is continuing to dig its own grave.
Going to be interesting to hear Big 12 spin after 11 schools spent a lots of time, money and prestige trying to impress the presidents.
— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) October 17, 2016
Big 12 exposure
The Big 12 wanted exposure — which they certainly got — but it came at a cost as the conference left with a big black eye. The takeaway from this whole fiasco is that the Big 12, now known by many as the “Temporary Ten” has become the laughing stock of the college football world.
The Big 12 went back and forth like a dog wagging its tail.
So who did we get here? Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.
During the first year of the College Football Playoff, the Big 12 was left out despite Baylor and TCU finishing the regular season at 11-1 and were both co-conference champions.
But that’s because other conferences had a conference championship game — an extra game on the schedule to get a statement win and up its resume. The committee was certainly swayed as it subsequently left the Big 12 out of the College Football playoff system in its inaugural year.
That of course, left the Big 12 fuming.
Oklahoma president David Boren went on to say that the league was at a disadvantage because they didn’t have a conference championship game and would face an uphill battle against the other Power 5 conferences that held conference championship games. Plus it didn’t hurt that the conference would get extra revenue by holding a conference title game.
Set up to fail
Eventually, the NCAA granted conferences with less than 12 schools the ability to hold a conference championship game if the conference members voted in favor of it — which the Big 12 did this past summer.
But a month later, the conference asked schools to apply for a potential spot at the dining table with the big boys. More than 20 schools did so, before the list was narrowed down to 11 schools (BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Connecticut, UCF, USF, Colorado State, SMU, Tulane, Air Force and Rice).
Fast forward three months later, and the Big 12 admitted that conference expansion wasn’t really on the table at all and that they never really discussed schools or even took a vote on programs to join the conference.
If no expansion, it took longer for all those schools to make their presentations than it did for the presidents to shoot them down.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) October 17, 2016
Saxophone version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” now blaring here in the Big 12 press conference room. Seems appropriate…
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 17, 2016
Classic Boren. His public comments exposed the Big 12's vulnerability for 18 months. Sits at podium today and talks strength and unity.
— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) October 17, 2016
So tell me again why they went through all of this trouble in the first place?
Programs across the country were put through the ringer, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.
“They (Big 12) got together and sang kumbaya, and for whatever reason decided that they have never been more united as a conference than they are today,” said Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel on his podcast with Bruce Feldman.
On top of that, the Big 12 television network never came to pass which was also a top priority for the conference. Before expansion talks began, Boren and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby were told that a conference network wouldn’t be viable earlier this year.
During Monday’s press conference, Boren admitted that they found out through their partners and consultants that there was no market for it and that they weren’t going to pursue it anymore.
Did they really think that television partners would want to start something with an unstable conference that is constantly changing its mind?
“The whole thing was like a twisted beauty pageant where nobody gets to wear the crown,” wrote Mandel in a great article calling out the Big 12.
Impact on college football
This doesn’t just impact the Big 12, but will have implications for conferences and teams across the country.
The Big 12 conference is in a vulnerable spot right now. Texas and Oklahoma call the shots and everybody follows. But that will likely change in the coming years when the grant of rights deals — the contract that is essentially keeping the conference together — is set to expire in the 2024-2025 school year.
The $2.6 billion television contract with Fox and ESPN will end, and what happen next? Will the conference end, too? It’s certainly starting to look that way.
The SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences have already taken Big 12 schools before (Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado) and could very well take several more. Texas could very well go Independent and take its Longhorn Network with it, and with its prestige, Oklahoma could essentially call up any conference they wanted and notify them that they were on their way.
Let’s not forget either that conferences have been actively looking at starting Super Conferences which would likely consist of 16 schools with two divisions of eight teams each. If this is going to happen, then it makes sense for the Big 12 to expand so that it can take the best possible candidates that still remain (BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, etc.), before they are left behind with the bread crumbs, or risk being picked apart and disbanded altogether.
With the black eye today, the Big 12 has already ticked off their TV partners as well as the programs they have thrown under the bus.
“Would those schools even apply again given how this all went? Would any school spend the money given this result,” wrote one twitter user.
It remains to be seen, but at the current rate, Monday’s decision has the conference on the verge of sinking with very few options left to stay afloat in the ever-changing landscape that is college football.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 18, 2016