Update: The league has confirmed it will keep the status quo intact.
The formal announcement won't come until 6:30 p.m. ET, but word has leaked out of Dallas that the Big 12 will not expand. In hindsight, the league presidents' scheduled meeting ending an hour and a half ahead of schedule was all we needed to know.
For a conference that has struggled with branding from the moment of its inception -- One True Champion, anyone? -- this four-month saga did not gain the Big 12 any friends outside its Dallas area headquarters. Close to a dozen mid-majors were courted, interviewed, and back-rubbed, only to be left at the door. ESPN and Fox were extorted in the most public way possible. And a conference that can never agree on anything is now even more divided.
Actually, let's walk that back a bit. There is one thing the Big 12's 10 schools can agree on, and it's that they can't agree on anything.
The question of why the Big 12 so publicly pursued the expansion now -- just after the ACC announced its network, and at a time when the only thing Big 12-related anyone wanted to talk about was Baylor's continued troubles -- is one that will never be fully answered, especially considering it was clear all along any slam-dunk decision would've been in the conference already. From September:
“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?”
We said from the start that agreeing in principle to expand but not agreeing on with whom to expand was the most Big 12 ending possible, and in the end the conference played true to its character.
The Big 12's grant of rights expires in the middle of the next decade. A prediction: either the Big 12 convinces multiple schools from other Power 5 conferences to jump ship before then, or those in the conference with options to go elsewhere do so and the idea of this conference as a peer to the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 vanishes forever.