- By most projections, each Big 12 school would receive up to $3 million apiece from a title game
- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said that the league is falling way behind the SEC and the Big Ten in revenue
- One school official told the American-Statesman that Texas is not likely to abandon the Longhorn Network
Posted May 20th, 2016
Big 12 chancellors, presidents and athletic directors will gather for league meetings next week in Irving to discuss a range of topics, including two that are critical for the conference’s future:
Should the conference add a championship game in football, now that the NCAA is allowing them to do so?
And should the Big 12 really be 12 schools again, adding two new members by way of conference expansion?
Here are 12 hot-button questions that surround Big 12 expansion, conference realignment and the addition of a title game for football:
1. TO PASS ANYTHING, DOES THE BIG 12 JUST NEED A SIMPLE MAJORITY OF SIX VOTES?
Yes and no. There are some topics, such as the important ones on conference expansion and a championship game, that will require a super majority (75 percent, or eight votes) of the Board of Directors. Other less important issues, though, would only need a simple majority to be approved.
2. WHAT ARE “GRANT OF RIGHTS,” AND HOW LONG DOES THE CONTRACT RUN?
Grant of rights basically refers to an agreement by league members to relinquish the control of the television rights of a conference’s marquee football and basketball games that are promised to a network. In the Big 12’s case, that’s ESPN and Fox. The rights sync up with the length of the contract, which runs through the 2024-25 school year. It basically assures those networks of the best programming for that league.
3. WHY CAN’T THE BIG 12 JUST RAID ANOTHER POWER 5 CONFERENCE FOR TWO SCHOOLS?
See grant of rights, above.
It theoretically binds the league together because any school that leaves for another conference would forfeit its television earnings, which would be shared among the rest of the conference. So if a Power 5 conference team, let’s say Florida State, left the ACC to join the Big 12, the Seminoles’ television rights (and corresponding money) would belong to the ACC, not the league they’re joining. However, no network has reduced its payout fees to a conference even after the conference was raided by another league, so breach of damages could be hard to prove. In addition, ESPN crosses all league boundaries and is so entertained, which complicates the picture.
4. HOW MUCH MONEY WOULD EACH SCHOOL GET FROM A FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME?
By most projections, each Big 12 school would receive up to $3 million apiece from a title game. That would be over and beyond the annual payout each school receives. Last year, every Big 12 school was allotted $25.6 million.
5. WHAT COULD ENTICE TEXAS TO GIVE UP ITS LONGHORN NETWORK?
Not much. One school official told the American-Statesman that Texas is not likely to abandon the Longhorn Network, which pays UT an average of $15 million a year until 2031, because the only single-school network in the nation (other than the school-owned BYUtv) affords it tremendous exposure for the Longhorn brand, a huge recruiting advantage for all of its sports — especially the Olympic sports — and high visibility for Longhorn teams. That’s a lot to give up.
6. DOES EVERY POWER 5 CONFERENCE HAVE ITS OWN NETWORK?
No. The ACC has yet to form its own network, in part, because ESPN has been downsizing and is less than wildly interested in establishing anything that might be a money drain. The Pac-12 formed its own conference-wide network without the help of a major network like ESPN (which formed the SEC Network) or Fox (Big Ten), but has struggled to find traction in distribution and, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review in March, paid out a paltry $1.4 million per school last year with these third-tier rights.
The Big Ten Network, which began in 2007, has 62 million subscribers and paid out more than $10 million per school last year, according to one estimate. The relatively new SEC Network, which has 69 million subscribers, pays out about $6.8 million per school. A year ago, the SNL Kagan media research firm ranked the most valuable sports networks and listed the SEC Network fifth, the Big Ten Network eighth and the Pac-12’s conference-owned network 15th.
7. IS THIS ALL ABOUT MONEY?
Of course. Isn’t it always?
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said that the league is falling way behind the SEC and the Big Ten in revenue. That trend is likely to continue, with potentially dire consequences for the Big 12. But television money could begin to decline, some experts say, because consumers are flocking to live-streaming on their computers and mobile devices.
8. DO TEXAS AND OKLAHOMA HAVE ALL THE CLOUT?
Yes, they do. The other eight schools know that the conference’s two powers pull most of the weight in the Big 12 because they’re the biggest, they have the largest athletic budgets, they have the most tradition and are the most appealing to other conferences if they ever choose to leave the Big 12.
The Longhorns and Sooners would have options to go elsewhere. The other schools, as Kansas discovered during the last round of realignment, would learn they have few bargaining chips because only football moves the needle.
9. WHAT’S THE BEST LANDING SPOT FOR TEXAS?
Depends who you ask. A fan interested in sexy games and glamour matchups might pull for Texas to bolt for the SEC. But a Texas administrator might lean toward the Big Ten because of its prestige, its academic cachet and its friendly time zone that, for the most part, is in the middle of the country. One school official told the Statesman that Texas is most academically compatible with the Big Ten and the Pac-12.
10. WHAT’S THE BIGGEST FACTOR IN CONSIDERING SCHOOLS FOR EXPANSION?
Probably the overall brand of potential invitees. That could mean the size of their athletic budgets and their overall commitment to excellence as well as the enthusiasm of their fan base in terms of attendance and likelihood to travel for road games and bowl trips.
Success in football and basketball could go a long way in enhancing a school’s appeal, and academic standing is also important. The lack of academic status was one of the obstacles for Texas or anyone in the Big 12 to consider joining the SEC, though much of that has gone away since Texas A&M and Missouri moved to upgrade the SEC’s standing in the academic community.
11. WHY IS A 13TH DATA POINT SO CRITICAL?
Because the College Football Playoff system says so. That’s been the one constant through the first two years of the CFP.
Its selection committee said a 13th data point — which essentially means a 13th game, as in a conference championship — has hurt the Big 12 and may have led to the snubs of 12-win TCU and 11-win Baylor in 2014, the first season of the CFP. However, the Pac-12 has had the same results. The first year of the playoff, Oregon got in as the No. 2 team and reached the title game. The second year, it was left out as Stanford finished sixth in the final CFP standings.
12. WHAT’S THE PERCENTAGE OF THE BIG 12 DISSOLVING?
Berry Tramel, a columnist at The Daily Oklahoman, put the odds of a Big 12 breakup at 25 percent, which has to raise the eyebrows of the smaller schools in the league. It’s hard to predict if that is overly dire, but the withering criticism of the league’s viability by Oklahoma president David Boren sent some shots across the bow of all the Big 12 programs.