Interesting idea out of the A.D. meetings in
Dallas Irving this week, where the talk was focused on the topics you might expect, namely expansion, preservation and preparation. The biggest and obvious topic is whether the Big 12 is stable with 10 teams or if the league can, or should, grow to at least 12.
And the Big 12 set the bar pretty high where it concerns potential future members.
Forbes estimated that current Big 12 members will average $26.2 million from TV revenue, bowl games and the NCAA basketball tournament. When asked, Bowlsby confirmed any new member would have to bring the same value.
“Anybody we would look at would have to bring pro rata or a very high likelihood of sustained growth that would bring benefits to the league,” Bowlsby said. “We are never going to get bigger just for the sake of getting bigger.”
Money talks and for now, everything you read and hear was everything you read and heard before. Ten is good, the division of the money is right and at present there isn’t a strong enough urge to move beyond 10.
There are unresolved and undefined variables out there now that pertain to the upcoming playoff, namely how the rankings will work. Shouldn’t teams have to play the same amount of conference games as a way to control the value of non-conference scheduling? How important are non-conference games? Do all leagues have to play a conference title game?
In short, there’s no need to go to 12 teams if a Big 12 championship game isn’t mandated. The 10 teams don’t want to split their share with another two teams — re-read that Bowlsby quote again — for what amounts to less than $1 million for a conference championship. That game also invites the risk of costing a worthy team a spot in the really lucrative college playoff because it was upset in the 13th game.
So why go to 12 now, which is what the NCAA demands if you’re going to have a conference championship game, if the playoff won’t ask for a conference championship game?
If it turns out teams have to play nine conference games, a 10-team league fits nicely because schools like the single round robin. No one else crows a true champion like the Big 12. If the playoff only asks for eight league games, I guess a 10-team league is OK, but you don’t have quite the same push back against expanding. You then have to play four non-conference games and that part of the schedule is going to take on a greater importance.
If only there were a way arrange some sort of a deal with other conference to align quality non-conference games. Something like, I don’t know, a mutually beneficial alliance?
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the league is actively exploring a possible alliance with the Atlantic Coast Conference and two other unspecified leagues for the purposes of scheduling, marketing and possibly even television partnerships, an arrangement that might prevent further expansion.
“We’ve had conversations with three other leagues,” Bowlsby told the American-Statesman on Friday afternoon. “The ACC is one of them. It’s a process of discovery that would provide some of the benefits of larger membership without actually adding members.”
This is really clever because it covers so many bases and, most importantly, adds value and revenue without adding any more mouths to feed. The Big 12 doesn’t grow in the sense it expands to accept new members, and thus share revenue, but it grows because it will share marketing opportunities and non-conference games and probably even postseason opportunities with those leagues.
It’s expansion without expanding, really, and without that commitment the Big 12 is still able to do different things in case someone else does expand. And the Big 12 does seem primed in case the Big Ten or SEC take a Virginia, North Carolina, Duke or Georgia Tech.
The ally leagues? One possibility is the ACC, according to Bowlsby, and that one makes the most sense because the two leagues are pretty similar. Figure the SEC is involved, because the two have a strong bond now with the Champions Bowl and a likely partnership in basketball for a non-conference invitational to replace the Big East/SEC Challenge.
There are bowl tie-ins with the Pac-12 and no real relationship with the Big Ten, and there’s something interesting about both aspects there. The SEC and Big Ten have bowl tie-ins with Florida. The bowl cycle is nearly over, the Cotton Bowl will probably be folded into the playoff rotation and, well, the Pinstripe Bowl is suboptimal. A bowl in Florida is now something the Big 12 fancies.
“We’re going to do everything we can to try to make a deal for a site in Florida,” Bowlsby told the American-Statesman from Grapevine, site of the league meetings. “We’ve talked to the leadership at the Capital One Bowl, and we’ve pretty well covered the waterfront. An awful lot of their (six) bowl contracts (with different conferences) come up in the next three years. Florida is a prime recruiting area, for one thing, and there’s lot of nice places to visit.”