The Big 12 will aggressively pursue potential expansion of two to four schools, but it’s not likely that the league could grow before the 2017 football season, commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Austin American-Statesman on Wednesday.
“I think most institutions would want to give (their current conferences) a year’s notice,” Bowlsby said. “The idea of them playing (in the Big 12) in 2017 is probably not realistic.”
A strong presentation that lasted nearly three hours Tuesday from the two television consultant firms convinced the league’s presidents that the Big 12 would be wise to seriously consider growing; a bigger league, they contended, would increase the Big 12’s chances of attaining a College Football Playoff berth up to 77 percent, and also add to the available inventory in the event of a Big 12 network.
“We’re getting excellent advice,” Bowlsby said. “There were a few things perhaps that were either new or in conjunction with things we already knew that became more powerful. There was a compelling story told, and they were persuasive.”
The Big 12 also was influenced by Monday’s announcement that the ACC had reached a deal with ESPN to start a conference network and agreed to extend the binding ACC grant of rights for their first-tier television rights through 2036. But Bowlsby said he doesn’t think that puts pressure on the Big 12 to further its own grant of rights beyond 2024-25. The Big Ten recently contracted with ESPN for $190 million annually for just half of that league’s rights.
“We know that there’s going to be a point we need to extend the grant of rights,” Bowlsby said, adding that the topic was discussed Tuesday. “But that’s not a critical juncture now. If a new opportunity for us came along, we may have to visit that topic. There could be something that would make that a critical issue.”
Bowlsby said “several” potential expansion applicants had already contacted his office about joining. Oklahoma president David Boren, who chairs the Big 12 board of directors, said in June that 25 schools had approached the league.
“I’m sure we’ll be downright popular,” Bowlsby said. “There will be more than enough to do what we need.”