The Big 12 wasn't considering expansion, until it was, and now it may not be again. The truth is that the Big 12-2 has long been interested in making its census match its brand name. That there were no prospects worthy of adding has been no secret, though. Thus, a conference that calls itself the Big 12 has been stuck at 10 members for going on half a decade now.
That seemed to change over the summer when conference leadership announced commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been authorized to pursue expansion. Pitches were pitched. Meetings were held. And now, as we close in on the Oct. 17 board meeting many have circled as DiDay for Big 12 expansion, word leaked through Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel that Oklahoma president and expansion ringleader David Boren may have changed his mind.
The Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel -- as tied in to the Big 12 as any writer is to any conference, with the possible exception of San Jose Mercury News writer Jon Wilner and the Pac-12 -- ran the report through his sources, and the end result truly defies logic.
Take a look at these quotes:
“From Day One, expanding was OK if we replaced the teams we lost with teams of equal stature,” said an OU administrator Tuesday. “They are not out there.”
“The teams we need have left,” another Big 12 administrator said Tuesday. “Whoever you add out there really devalues the whole conference. They don't add anything. Just to get 12? What's sacred about a number? Does that make you stable?”
That was the case in 2011, in 2012, in 2014 and again in July, when expansion was announced. It's true today. So why did the conference change its tune now when the song its still the same?
Now to Tramel:
It seems clearer to me every day that the Bob Bowlsby/Boren announcement in July that the Big 12 would investigate expansion was a poker play. Scare the television networks —which by contract would owe the Big 12 an extra $25 million per added school per year if the league expanded — into renegotiating the media deals. In effect, pay the Big 12 not to expand.
Huh? Why would ESPN and Fox give the Big 12 money not to add teams?
The bluff probably was a misstep. It certainly angered the networks, and getting on the bad side of your business partners doesn't seem like a good move.
Yeah, I would say so. From Sports Business Journalin August:
News broke on July 18 that the ACC would launch a new channel in 2019, and the following day the Big 12 came out with its plan for Bowlsby to start vetting expansion candidates.
Network officials, however, are not happy with any plan that depends on steep rights-fee increases, even if such increases are spelled out in the media contracts.
Ah, yes. The ACC.
The Big 12 held out hope into July that it might eventually entice Florida State and Clemson to leave the ACC. Then came word that the ACC was forming a conference network, leaving the Big 12 as the only Power-5 league without such a marketing force, and that the ACC schools were signing away their media rights to the conference into 2037.
Bye-bye pipe dream of Florida State and Clemson. So the Big 12 pushed back.
Thinking that Florida State and Clemson would leave their geographic and cultural homes to play in a different time zone, a thousand miles removed from where their future athletes, their future students and their alums reside is thinking that can only be described as straight off a sugar rush at La-La Land.
With their top two targets off the table, the Big 12 got desperate.
So now the Big 12 is realizing that simply needing to expand more doesn't make their expansion options any more compelling, and now the league is trying to save face. That won't happen. If these reports are to be believed and the conference announces expansion only to not expand for the exact same reason they hadn't expanded for the past five years, the Big 12 will forever be The Conference That Cried Wolf.