We've hit a few different cycles now in this Big 12 expansion business. Over the last few days, Colorado State's certainly been leading that conversation, especially after their promotional materials became public, thanks to some well-timed records requests. BYU, UConn and others have enjoyed their time as a proverbial "it" candidate. But of course, the Big 12 could still decide not to expand at all. And according to a recent report by the Austin American-Statesman, the Big 12 may be leaning in that direction.
The story is long and a solid breakdown of where everything stands right now, but it is especially notable for having talked to some sources at Texas. From the story, here's how their source summed up the situation.
An influential Texas source puts the likelihood of expansion for the Big 12 at 15 percent. The source said the Longhorns could eventually go elsewhere, but not before the grant of rights involving first-tier television rights for marquee football and basketball games expires in 2024.
It's worth noting that Texas was thought to be a skeptic of expansion for a while now, so that figure might be a reflection of that (perhaps an Oklahoma or West Virginia source would be a bit more pro bullish), but either way, that's not a very big number. And since expansion is, in so many ways, tied to what happens with the Longhorn Network, if Texas doesn't want to expand and isn't willing to give up their TV deal, the Big 12 probably isn't expanding.
Does that mean that the status quo will bring stability to the conference? Not according the source. Let's read on.
Would Texas ever consider leaving the conference?
"Hell, yes," he said. "Broadcast rights are pledged through 2024. That is eight years of forced marriage. I see another realignment at that time, if not sooner. The Texas-OU football game would survive regardless of a league change."
Would Texas leave before 2024?
"Who knows?," he said. "A lot could happen."
Since doing nothing won't bring the Big 12 any closer to financial parity with the Big Ten or the SEC (not that doing something will either, of course), and since the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC would all likely push heavily to add Texas to their fold, it's not hard to imagine a scenario where Texas decides just to leave this awkward force marriage in the Big 12 once they get the chance. Given Oklahoma's comments, it also isn't hard to see them perhaps joining them, either in the same conference, or somewhere else. The Sooners will also have options.
It's worth noting that this unnamed Texas source isn't the only person who isn't enthusiastic about expansion. Also, per the article:
There's a strong possibility the league will do nothing. In fact, Kansas State athletic director John Currie said exactly that earlier this month. "I could make a great argument, personally, that I would rather just stay at 10," Currie told K-State reporters.
It's worth noting that while athletic directors are important in these conversations, at the end of the day, they don't get a direct vote.
Maybe BYU would be a fit in whatever conference is left if Texas and Oklahoma leave. Maybe the Big 12 decides to expand anyway. Maybe David Boren is able to come up with a shrewd solution to placate the Longhorn Network and the greater television goals of their conference peers. Or maybe, after all this huffing and puffing, the conference decides not do anything at this time, once they get a chance to pour over more data.
This story is far from over. But this report is probably not going to be music to the ears of any BYU fan hoping for positive news about their ability to join a Power 5 conference.