Last week, Oklahoma President David Boren made national headlines by saying that he thinks that it’s time for the Big 12 to become a 12-team conference once again.
“I think we should,” Boren told The Oklahoman.“How many years can this go on? It just gets to be really debilitating. I worry about that. That’s something I just worry about long-term about the conference, not short-term.”
In case you’re unfamiliar with the current landscape of college football, there are Five ‘Power Conferences’ — the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, and Big Ten — who have separated themselves from the rest of college football by getting more money, more access and more power. This group used to be called the BCS Conferences and there were six at the time, but the number changed to five when the Big East lost its major power conference status and no no longer sponsors football.
Five years ago when realignment was happening, the Big 12 nearly imploded as well. Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado and Texas A&M left the conference and the league was left scrambling. They ultimately brought in in West Virginia and TCU to stabilize the league at 10 teams. During this time there were rumors that Texas and Oklahoma were going to leave to the Pac-12 even though they were the glue holding the conference together.
Don’t be fooled, even though they’re both down a bit in football right now, Texas and Oklahoma both run the conference. Texas is the big dog and Oklahoma is big dog No. 2, and they pull a lot of weight in the decision that the conference makes (this also comes a lot from the lack of leadership by the conference commissioner). This gives Boren’s comments that much more substance.
Right now, the Big 12 is hurting. They lack a conference championship game and after just one year it clearly played a part in preventing their inclusion to the College Football Playoff. Right now they have two options: to act and continue to exist, or dwell and cease to exist.
How viable is each option?
Well, I think that Texas and Oklahoma may be forced to play their hand. As I mentioned above, they have a lot of pull in the Big 12 and enjoy being big fish in a little pond. If they were to leave and go to either the SEC or Pac-12, they won’t be the controlling majority in those conferences which would be a problem for both programs.
The Big 12 has all the reason to expand. One concern was that the Big 12 would lose money in their TV contract if they were to go from 10 to 12 teams. But according to Boren the truth is, “If we grow from 10 to 11 or 11 to 12, their payments to us grow proportionally. So everybody’s share stays the same.” This is a huge benefit for the Big 12 to add teams to their conference. The revenue will grow and each team will take home a complete chunk from the TV contract.
So we know that Boren is in favor of expanding, but is anyone else? He added, “A number of us would love to go 12.” Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said earlier this year that he thinks about 1/3 of his conference members would like to expand.
As the Big 12 continues on in the era of the College Football Playoff, it will become more apparent that they will have to expand because of their lack of Conference Championship Game. They have gone back and forth on adding a conference championship game, one second they want it, next thing they don’t. Like I said before, the Big 12 lacks leadership.
Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville gave his take on the Big 12 and their conference championship game situation.
He told SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey, “… It’s going to be hard for them to ever get to the national championship in the Playoff unless they have a [conference] championship game or go undefeated, and that’s hard to do.”
They have about as much of a chance as any G5 team getting in, the reason being that there are only four playoff spots while there are four champions from the Power Five leagues, the Big 12 is the lone exception here and they’ll continue to be left out while the conference champions will occupy those spots.
This leads to the second option, the Big 12 being dissolved and absorbed by the other 4 conferences. Currently, the Power Five sits at 64 teams (not including Notre Dame). I could see the transition being made to four conferences made up of 16 teams each. This model makes it easier for the playoff committee to pick the playoff teams by just picking the conference champions (or when the playoff moves to eight teams, they could take division champs from each conference).
Not everyone is for the Big 12 to up and add teams, Texas Tech president released a statement on the topic in regards to Boren’s comments.
— Chris Level (@ChrisLevel) July 1, 2015
Granted, Texas Tech doesn’t have the influence among the Big 12 that Oklahoma does. Jake Trotter cover the Big 12 for ESPN.com joined ESPN 960 and shared some of his beliefs, in terms of decision making power.
“If we’re talking about expansion, I think that Texas and Oklahoma hold the most cards and maybe Oklahoma more so because Texas is stuck because of the Longhorn Network,” Trotter said. “Oklahoma is a little more flexible because they aren’t tied down. They could go to the SEC, Pac-12, or the Big Ten.”
When it comes to where Texas Tech belongs in the Power Five if the Big 12 were to implode Trotter says, “If the Big 12 were to implode, I don’t think that Iowa State, Texas Tech, or Kansas State would land anywhere.”
The next several months will be key for the Big 12’s decision and BYU fan’s will continue to wait the anxiously await the decision for the next power play in college football.