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Report: Big 12 to consider 17 schools for 2 spots in conference expansion

According to a report published by ESPN the Big 12 will consider 17 schools for just two open spots for expansion. The report lists the following schools as potential candidates; Cincinnati, Houston, BYU, South Florida, Central Florida, UConn, Memphis, Colorado State, Boise State, Tulane, Temple, East Carolina, SMU, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, and San Diego State.

The early favorites among these schools since the conference announced the potential for expansion have been Cincinnati and Houston. Both schools have had the help of political influences with Texas governor Greg Abbott lobbying for Houston and Ohio governor John Kasich lobbying for Cincinnati.

Kasich has also reportedly attempted to call in favors from WVU president Gordon Gee. Gee, a member of the Big 12 expansion subcommittee, has had a long standing relationship with the Ohio governor dating back to when Gee was president at Ohio State. Since the Mountaineers inclusion into the conference in 2012 it has been widely reported that WVU would prefer a geographical partner within the conference. Cincinnati could fill that bill.

Original reports stated the conference could potentially make a decision on expansion by Labor Day although that seems much less likely now. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has not been adamant about expansion and has stated recently that a 10 team conference is still not out of the question.

With deregulation of conference championship games the Big 12 was given the option to hold an annual championship game without the need to expand (old NCAA guidelines required conferences to have at least 12 schools). The conference invoked that option earlier this year stating that it would re-institute the game starting in 2017.

Yet another potential hurdle though for the conference is their media partners ESPN and Fox. An article published on August 1st by the Sports Business Daily outlines the discontent by both ESPN and Fox stating in part:

“Absent a conference channel, the only other way for the Big 12 to significantly grow revenue in the near term is to add schools and activate that pro rata clause in its media contracts.

That kind of cash grab, sources say, is rubbing ESPN and Fox the wrong way because any new schools would not carry the profile of most power five schools, which is what the networks are paying for.”

Network executives spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are in the midst of negotiating with the conference.

The pro rata clause states that any schools joining the league make an average of approximately $25 million in television money annually. Do schools such as Temple of Northern Illinois automatically yield a return of $25 million annually to the networks? Absolutely not, and hence the push back from the media partners.

So what does expanding the conference do for the 10 current members? It would arguably not strengthen the conference although the addition of Houston would be the exception. What adding two schools will do is increase the annual payout to each current member as set forth in the grant of rights. Remember, the conference can stay the status quo and implement a conference championship game.

Does the conference really need to expand with a Big 12 championship game already scheduled in 2017? Would adding any combination of the schools listed above strengthen the conference past an increase in revenue through the duration of the grant of rights?

No matter the answers we are still some time away before we learn the fate of Big 12 expansion, something reiterated by Oklahoma president David Boren who told the OU Daily back in June, ““I think we should just sort of take our time on expansion, not rush it this summer, not try to push anything through.”

With a list consisting of 17 schools, many of which who seemed to come out of nowhere, it doesn’t seem likely a decision will be made any time soon.

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Jeremy Simon
Founder and publisher of, Jeremy is also a contributor to USA Today as well as covers the Mountaineers for Athlon Sports. Follow on Twitter @JSi07
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