After seemingly endless talk about expansion, it appears the Big 12 Conference will not be adding any teams to the conference, according to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.
The decision was expected to be revealed in a press conference scheduled for Monday evening. The conference had been discussing expansion after losing out on the first College Football Playoff and facing growing questions about viability with all of the other Power 5 conferences having more than 12 teams.
Perhaps the biggest factor involved in the possible expansion of the conference dealt with the money from television rights. The Big Ten, SEC, PAC-12, and ACC all have, or will have, conference networks that are providing member schools with tens of millions of dollars each year through television rights deals.
The Big 12 Conference doesn’t have a television network, outside of the Longhorn Network, which Texas isn’t looking to give up. This limits how much the conference can draw from networks. The fact that teams in the Big 12 have been subpar in recent years hasn’t helped the conference’s case.
If the Big 12 had expanded, it would have triggered a clause in the contract with Fox Sports and ESPN that would force both to pay a higher rights fee. ESPN has struggled recently with declining viewership and Fox Sports has struggled to get a ratings foothold for any of its original, non-game related programming.
The head of Fox Sports, Eric Shanks, was asked about the possibility of expansion by the Sports Business Journal and he said the possibility of expansion isn’t a “good idea for the conference.”
“We think it will be dilutive to the product in the short term,” Shanks told SBJ. “In the long term, it’s probably harmful to the future of the conference…We’re still in discussions with them. We still have a long way to go in the deal.”
Thamel said the conference is still negotiating increased broadcast rights from Fox Sports and ESPN.
Of course, the conference has been on the edge of the cliff before only to march back from the abyss. The question is how many more times will the cliff hold the conference before the ground finally collapses under them.