The years long Big 12 expansion soap opera may finally be nearing an ending, as the conference has scheduled a press conference at 6 PM ET on Monday, following their board of directors meeting. But reports are starting to circulate that BYU fans won’t like how the spectacle finishes, thanks, in part, to ESPN.
According to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, the Big 12 is “unlikely” to announce expansion. Here’s Thamel, explaining why:
Multiple sources indicated there have been discussions with the Big 12’s TV partners to pay the league not to expand. The purpose of the payment would be to eliminate the pro rata clause in the TV contract—which the TV officials consider a loophole—that enables the league to receive nearly $25 million annually for every school it adds. The willingness of ESPN and Fox to discuss paying to eliminate that clause and end future potential expansion drama in upcoming years makes not expanding the most likely conclusion.
“If they put more money up and bought out that pro rata clause, we’ll likely keep ourselves at 10,” speculated a high-ranking Big 12 source.
The driving force behind this entire expansion operation was the pro rata clause, which would have allowed Big 12 institutions to get another fat paycheck from ESPN and Fox, regardless of who they added. The conference’s TV partners weren’t thrilled about the prospect of paying $20 million dollars for the rights to teams they value dramatically less than that, and even went to far as to leak that in public.
So one possible outcome here is that TV partners decide to write another check to keep the Big 12 from adding anybody. Another, per CBS, is that the conference decides to punt on making a decision altogether, pushing things back to Christmastime. Maybe that’s a stalling tactic to get the paperwork cleared with ESPN and Fox?
One thing has been clear from every national report on this process. Every reporter is hedging their bets, because after witnessing every twist and turn over the last few years, it’s clear that anything can still happen with Big 12 presidents and administrators get together.
Perhaps the only thing that’s been clear over the last few months is the fact that Oklahoma and Texas haven’t been interested in expanding the grant of rights agreement beyond 2025. Without that extension, it’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that whatever decision made on Monday is moot. If Texas and Oklahoma aren’t on board long-term, the Big 12 isn’t surviving past 2025.
Hopefully, one way or another, we’ll get a little more clarity early next week.