As administrators from the Big 12 prepare for today’s discussions at the league’s spring meetings, the topic of expansion will again be on the table.
But a very influential voice in the room has made it clear that Texas is satisfied with the league’s 10-member configuration, a stance that makes expansion more challenging on multiple fronts.
“I think the prudent thing for us to do is stay where we are,” Texas athletic director Mike Perrin said at the conclusion of Wednesday’s session in Irving. “That’s my personal opinion … I think we’re well-positioned on television. I think we’re well-positioned on the playoff.”
Perrin acknowledged that league presidents will make the final decision on expansion, which has drawn reporters from media outlets in Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis and Orlando (locations for schools that project as Big 12 expansion targets) to this week’s meetings that conclude Friday. Perrin also said that Texas school president Greg Fenves, who will be involved in meetings today and tomorrow, “can speak for himself” on the expansion topic.
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But reality suggests that Big 12 expansion will not take place without the blessing of Texas administrators because adjustments to league policies in regard to the Longhorns Network would be needed to make it transpire. League policy requires approval from at least eight of 10 conference members to approve expansion and it is widely believed that Texas has at least two, and likely three, fellow league members from the Lone Star State (TCU, Texas Tech, Baylor) in its camp as things stand regarding expansion.
A presentation scheduled for today could alter some perspectives, however.
CBS Sports has reported that league CEOs will listen to information today showing that, if the league expands by four teams, provisions in its TV contracts with ESPN and Fox would provide “pro rata” increases for new Big 12 members that could generated at least $1 billion over the length of existing agreements that extend through the 2024-25 school year. If the league expands by two teams, CBS reported that the increase would be $500 million.
Under the existing agreement, rights-holders are obligated to pay an equal share of TV revenues to any new members added to the Big 12 during the existing deals. That translates to roughly $23 million per year, although the money would be targeted toward the expansion schools. But re-opening the existing contracts could allow for negotiations of additional revenues above the current “pro rata” figures that would be disbursed to existing members.
As things stand, Big 12 schools project to fall roughly $9 million per school behind their SEC peers in revenue distributions this year because of the success of the SEC Network, which began in 2014. The Big 12 does not have a conference network but each school negotiates independent agreements with carriers for TV rights outside the ESPN and Fox contracts. The highest profile of those deals involves the Longhorn Network, which provides Texas a $15 million per year revenue stream from ESPN.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlby has called for league CEOs to make decisions on expansion, a football championship game and creation of a conference network by the end of the summer.