Big 12 Conference: No expansion for now

LM Otero
OU President David Boren and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby laugh during a news conference after The Big 12 Conference meeting in Texas. The Big 12 has decided against expansion after three months of analyzing, vetting and interviewing possible new members. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Oklahoma University president David Boren announced in July that the conference was looking to expand by either two or four members.

Fast forward two months and the Big 12 still hasn’t found its members.

After its annual president’s meeting, most were speculating the Big 12 would formally announce the addition of new schools.

Instead, the Big 12 gave more of the same.

“We decided after very thorough discussion that we would remain at 10 members at this time,” Boren said in the post-meeting press conference. He added the decision was “unanimous” and there was “no discussion of individual schools in the sense of taking votes on individual schools or trying to sense support for the schools.”

Some argue the Big 12 never had legitimate expansion interest. Big 12 rules dictate that eight of the 10 schools in the conference were needed to approve a new member, a difficult number to achieve for any of the expansion candidates. But the talk of expansion allegedly drove up television contract money, with rumors of ESPN and Fox Sports paying the conference to stand pat.

It doesn’t appear likely that the conference realignment landscape will change within the next six months, or even the next year. This has prompted many to ask about the future of the Big 12. Without enough members to have a true conference championship game and with rumors of Oklahoma and Texas looking to leave, the Big 12 appears to be on its last leg.

For the Cougars, expansion wasn’t a must.

BYU released a statement that said, “Over the last few months, BYU has learned a lot about its strengths as an institution and as an athletic department. Through our in-depth review we have reinforced valuable relationships and have been reminded how strong we are as a university. BYU strives to run its athletic program like a P5 institution. Our national fan base and broadcast ratings, along with the many historical and recent successes of our teams, attest we certainly belong. We believe BYU can significantly contribute to the athletic and academic excellence of a P5 conference.”

Independence has given the football team national exposure and the opportunity to play some of the biggest names in the nation. It’s the lack of a conference payout (the SEC paid just over $32 million to each of its members last season) that may hurt BYU athletics in the future.

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