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Football

Big 12 expansion reactions range from disappointed to ‘pissed off’

Houston, BYU, UConn all issue statements after Big 12 presidents decide not to expand

Posted October 17th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • UConn: Decision was “not unexpected, indicative of the volatile world of college athletics administration.”
  • Houston: “I’m just shocked we went through this process and nothing happened.”
  • School source: “I’d say frustrated more than anything else.”

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said all the candidates for expansion “expressed gratitude at being part of the process.” And yes, “they expressed disappointment,” he said.

The public statements that flowed from Houston, BYU and Connecticut and elsewhere all echoed those sentiments, although some read like they were produced by angry typists.

UConn president Susan Herbst said the decision was “not unexpected and is indicative of the volatile world of college athletics administration.”

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BYU’s statement crowed about the school’s national fan base and broadcast ratings. Those two things, “along with the historical and recent successes of our teams, attest we certainly belong. We believe BYU can significantly contribute to the athletic and academic excellent of a (Power 5) conference.”

Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn said school officials realize this is a competitive business, but the Bearcats are “proud of our collective sense of class and the way we conducted our business.”

“We respect the process, and I do have great respect for Bob Bowlsby,” Bohn said late Monday. “We learned a lot about ourselves. It made us better. It strengthened our resolve to play at the highest level.”

Cincinnati interim President Beverly Davenport tweeted, “We believe — in our fight, in our family, in our future. #StrengthInUnity.”

Several sources at schools were even angrier after the league’s afternoon conference call. During an hour-long session, Oklahoma president David Boren said there was “zero discussion” about specific schools.

“I can tell you personally I’m pissed off with the whole ‘No vote was ever taken’ because of the amount of hours we had to put into this,” said a source at one of the schools that was under consideration. The source did not want the school identified.

Said another school source, “I’d say frustrated more than anything else.”

UConn went the extra mile on Monday and released all of the school’s presentation materials. It was a move designed for Huskies fans who probably would like to know how much work went into this. Other schools were considering whether to release their pitch materials, but one source said, “What’s the point now?”

Boren’s comments seem hard to accept at face value considering there were a half-dozen or so serious candidates for expansion. The league’s TV partners were against adding smaller schools, too, and it seems likely that Big 12 presidents would have to discuss the merits of School X vs. University Y.

Fox Sports president Eric Shanks said Big 12 expansion would be “dilutive” in the short term and ultimately harmful.

“We don’t think expansion in the Big 12 is a good idea for the conference,” Shanks said at a conference hosted by SportsBusiness Journal. “In the long term, it’s probably harmful to the future of the conference.”

Tilman Fertitta, the chairman of the Houston System Board of Regents, called the Big 12’s decision “extremely disappointing.”

“You’d almost (want) expansion and us not being included than to have no expansion at all, because it would have told you something,” Fertitta told Fox 26 in Houston. “I’m just shocked we went through this process and nothing happened.”

Houston president Renu Khator said her university, with its demonstrated commitment to talent and facilities in the nation’s fourth largest city, “will find its rightful place.”

“Our destiny belongs to us,” Khator said.

SMU and Rice officials issued similar statements. South Florida athletic director Mark Harlan issued a statement saying the Bulls “remain proud members of the American Athletic Conference and my thoughts have turned to the pride and optimism” about the school.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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