For those hoping for a piece of the Power Five financial pie, you should get an answer, one way or the other, in the next few months.
Earlier this month, the Cincinnati Enquirer obtained emails detailing Cincinnati’s back-room campaign for inclusion in the Big 12, with those missives showing the university seemingly has an ally in their cause in Oklahoma president David Boren. In an interview with Jake Trotter of The Oklahoman Tuesday, Boren, the driving force behind the league’s potential move to expand, confirmed that the expansion issue for his conference should be coming to a head at some point before the end of summer.
“We’re in a fact-finding mode, we’re in a data-gathering mode,” Boren, who previously admitted he was very frustrated the league let Louisville get away, told Trotter. “In other words, what will it mean to the stability of the conference? What will it mean financially to the conference?
“We’ve sort of said to ourselves, come this summer, we’re going to have to finally make a decision about what we do. We cannot indefinitely postpone decisions. That’s what I had gotten frustrated about. I thought we were spinning our wheels.
There are other issues tied to any expansion of the Big 12 from its current 10 schools to 12, most notably folding Texas’ Longhorn Network and the other university’s third-tier media properties into a league-wide network similar to the ones that serve as personal ATMs for the Big Ten and SEC. On that front, it’s intimated there’s some willingness in Austin to bend.
For now, the prime directive is convincing the holdouts that expansion is necessary and convincing Texas to give up The Longhorn Network for the greater good of a Big 12 Network.
“What’s good about it, I would say, no one’s slammed the door shut on any possibilities,” Boren said. “We’re doing what we should do. We’re being prudent, we’re being diligent. We’re reviewing all the data.”
As for potential expansion candidates, the data shows there are a handful of possibilities — or the usual suspects as some would label them. In addition to Cincinnati, Boise State, BYU, UConn, UCF and USF have been mentioned to varying degrees as fits for an expanded Big 12. Houston would seemingly be an ideal candidate as well, although there would likely be pushback from the state of Texas contingent in the league.
A geographic partner for one of the new members of the league, West Virginia, would seem to be at or near the top of any potential expansion to-do list. It’s also rumored that the league would want to expand further to the west and toward the Pac-12’s territory.
Myriad factors will not only go into deciding whether or not to expand, but just who to add if expansion is agreed upon.
“I think people are being very sincere about trying to look at the figures and the facts,” Boren said. “Not be emotional about it or ‘I want this school’ or ‘I want that.’
“Well, what are their academics? What’s their research base? How well do they fit our academic profile? How well do they fit our fan base profile? How many dollars in their market do they bring to the table? We’re looking at all that. In terms of the network and those dollars, we’re looking with our TV consultants to tell us.”
At some point before the 2016 season kicks off — officials will meet again in May after failing to reach a consensus at meetings earlier this month — the conference will answer those questions and decide to expand or not to expand. Here’s to guessing it’ll be the former, and BYU and Cincinnati will be very pleased with the direction the conference takes.