The Big 12 Will Not Expand, For Now

After much ado this summer, the Big 12 will not be expanding, at least for now.

The Big 12 board, comprised of member-institution presidents, could not break the threshold of eight votes needed per potential expansion-mate during the nearly six-hour meeting held at the Grand Hyatt at DFW International Airport. Of the 11 finalists, Houston, BYU, and Cincinnati were, according to the Dallas Morning News, the three schools most likely to gain entrance to the conference.

The non-development brings to an end a period of furious speculation and political posturing. On July 19, at the tail end of Big 12 Football Media Days, the board convened and voted unanimously to consider expansion, with two and four added teams on the table. Immediately following, conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby was approached by interested parties.

On July 21, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick tweeted strongly in favor of adding Houston to the conference. Later that day, UT-Austin President Greg Fenves tweeted that he supported considering the former Southwest Conference foe.

On September 11, the three aforementioned schools, plus Air Force, Central Florida, Colorado State, Connecticut, Rice, South Florida, SMU, and Tulane made presentations to the Big 12 board.

As expansion talk continued, reports surfaced that ESPN and Fox executives were concerned that the non-Power Five expansion partners would water down the Big 12, especially in light of reports that a 14-team Big 12 could up the television rights by as much as $80 million at the next negotiation. The networks’ reluctance to Big 12 expansion became clearer last week, when Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel reported that the Big 12’s television partners were willing to pay the conference to stay at 10 teams.

“We do not consider [expansion] an active agenda item,” Bowlsby said Monday night, putting an end to the conference’s flirtation with expansion for the time being. In a statement, Fenves said all 10 teams agreed on squashing the issue.

“I was pleased to join my fellow presidents in today’s unanimous decision to keep the Big 12 at 10 teams,” he said. “Ten is the right number. It promotes a competitive balance and allows for a round-robin schedule in the different sports, which is best for our student athletes. This is the right way to ensure a strong conference moving forward.”


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