On the first day of conference meetings, the Big 12 athletic directors talked a lot, listened a bunch and tabled most everything on Thursday.
They didn’t have a single vote on any issue and took no formal action on anything, but league Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said it is “highly unlikely” that the league would institute a football championship game for the 2016 season because members want more information on different models that could involve scheduling and expansion.
Beyond that is anybody’s guess. The ADs listened and learned in what Bowlsby called “high-level discussions.” They spent very little time discussing possible expansion and skirted the looming issue of a Big 12 television network that would require Texas to give up its 20-year Longhorn Network deal with ESPN.
“I really wouldn’t be prepared to comment on that,” Texas men’s Athletic Director Mike Perrin said. “LHN has been a real success for us. They’ve been wonderful television partners.”
Perrin also said that “as a lawyer, I could argue either way” about having a championship game and declined to say which way he’d argue more.
Perrin and Kansas State’s Sheahon Zenger, chairman of the Big 12 ADs, both suggested they are happy with the current makeup of the league, which would preclude inviting two more teams to join. When Zenger was asked about the need for a Big 12 network — a potentially divisive issue in the league — he said, “We’re very neutral.”
“I like the composition of the conference,” Perrin said. “I think we have a very competitive conference. If you look at what’s going on in the basketball world, it’s really lights out. In football, some of us are not as competitive as we’d like to be, but we’re working on that. It’s a very strong conference, and I’m happy with it.”
On the chances of a football title game, Bowlsby said, “I think it’s unlikely we’d add it for ’16, but it’s not impossible.”
On expansion, Perrin said, “I don’t think we spent any time talking about expansion, per se. It’s all hypothetical. We haven’t made any attempt to make it unhypothetical.”
The 10 athletic directors spent the bulk of their time listening to representatives of a research firm and a consulting agency for roughly 2 1/2 hours of their four-hour-plus meeting at the league headquarters. Their presentations lasted so long, they didn’t even get to new College Football Playoff selection committee chairman and Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt’s presentation.
The league has hired Navigate Research, a Chicago-based company that counts among its clients 12 universities, including Baylor, as well as eight NFL teams. It has also contracted with BHV, a New York City-based firm that has clients like the University of Texas, the Texas Rangers, Notre Dame, the Houston Rockets and the Rose Bowl.
The conference’s university presidents will meet for four hours Friday. Bowlsby said they will hear more on these issues at the next league meetings that run from May 31 to June 3.