Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby raised a few eyebrows late last week when he told the Austin-American Statesman that preliminary discussions about an alliance with the ACC and possibly as many as two other conferences over scheduling/marketing/TV were underway.
While there are no real legs underneath the project yet, it’s an alternative to conference expansion in which the Big 12 could gain more exposure and brand recognition in markets it wouldn’t normally occupy without actually adding members. Another way to do that is bowl agreements.
Bowlsby said Tuesday that the Big 12 is looking into tie-ins with the Capital One Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl, both of which will have slots available after next season. Not so coincidentally, the Big Ten, SEC and ACC have ties to those bowls, respectively.
“California, Florida, and Texas comprise more recruits than the whole rest of the country combined,” Bowlsby said. “That’s been a shortcoming of our bowl lineup in the past, and we need to fix it if we can.”
From the sound of it, a Big 12 partnership with one or more conferences is a ways off; a bowl agreement in talent-rich Florida, on the other hand, is a simpler way to expand the Big 12’s footprint. It could eventually work out that a partnership with another conference and bowl tie-in go hand in hand (see: Sugar Bowl). There are a lot of options on the table.
The Big 12 continues to insist to anyone who asks that the conference is perfectly content with 10 members, though Bowlsby adds that his office is always monitoring the college athletics landscape. That’s a pretty standard answer, but right now the Big 12 is looking to expand its footprint without actually expanding its membership.
(Hat tip: Kirk Bohls, Austin-American Statesman)