By the end of business Monday, Texas and Oklahoma could officially be headed out of the Big 12, putting the conference on life support.
Less than a week after a report that Texas and Oklahoma had approached the Southeastern Conference about membership, the first real dominoes are expected to start falling this week. Where they eventually stop and the impact on the whole of college football is the great unknown at this point.
For now, Texas and Oklahoma are expected to inform the Big 12 as early as Monday that it will not be extending its grant of rights to the conference beyond 2025, when the TV contracts with ESPN and FOX expire.
Nothing yet has slowed the realignment freight train with the Longhorns and Sooners driving the engine to a final stop in the SEC, although there might have been a development Sunday.
The Big 12 announced a meeting between its executive committee (Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec and Baylor President Linda Livingstone) and Oklahoma President Joe Harroz and Texas President Jay Hartzel. Harroz and Hartzel were no-shows on a Big 12 video conference Thursday and the conference wanted a meeting to discuss the move and the issues behind it, a source familiar with the situation confirmed.
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”The meeting was cordial, and the executive committee expressed a willingness to discuss proposals that would strengthen the conference and be mutually beneficial to OU and UT, as well as the other member institutions of the conference,” Bowlsby said in a statement.
“I expect that we will continue our conversations in the days ahead and we look forward to discussing thoughts, ideas and concepts that may be of shared interest and impact.”
Will that affect any desire by Texas and Oklahoma to leave? Or at least delay the process with continued meetings?
Then again, each school could face a fan backlash if it appeared to waver. And the SEC move by the two has apparently been percolating for a while.
Published reports have the courtship between Texas/OU and the SEC having been underway for either six months or a full year. Things seem to be barreling to a conclusion that could reshape college conferences as we know it.
The source confirmed earlier reports that the Big 12 had discussed Thursday the possibility of awarding Texas and Oklahoma each an extra half share of conference revenue at the expense of the eight other conference members. It was described as one of several concepts discussed. The extra share would boost the Texas and OU share to close to $60 million, not counting third-tier rights. But the SEC deal with the two could mean even more along with stability, especially in the long term.
If Texas and Oklahoma go ahead with the notification to the Big 12, it would not represent an official withdrawal – for now – but something close to it with a departure point in four years. Nobody really expects it will take that long for Texas and Oklahoma to get free of their respective obligations but it’s still a possibility, which would be incredibly awkward. It’s more likely that the two could be at SEC media days in 2022 or 2023, although the timetable remains in flux.
The ultimate destination is not, unless the Big 12 was incredibly persuasive Sunday. The Longhorns and Sooners appear SEC bound whenever the conference’s presidents decide to issue an invite. Eleven votes from the 14 members are required which doesn’t appear to be an obstacle. Texas A&M, which bolted the Big 12 a decade ago because of Texas, had been vocal in its early opposition. The Aggies took a different tone over the weekend, with comments from President M. Katherine Banks and athletic director Ross Bjork, perhaps after getting a lesson in the brass-knuckle politics of the SEC.
”For us, kind of the bottom line on all this is whoever joins the SEC, whether that’s now or down the road, the 12th Man is strong and we look forward to competing against whoever that is,” Bjork said in a phone interview Saturday.
Bjork said the earlier comments about Texas were because of concerns about the conference culture.
”That’s what makes the SEC work, a culture of collaboration,” Bjork said. Asked about A&M’s previous dealings with Texas in the Big 12 and the criticism of the Longhorns’ as a negative influence, Bjork said.
”That’s why the culture piece is utmost priority for us, absolutely. I’ll just leave it at that.” A special A&M system board of regents meeting Monday is not expected to impact things.
Where that leaves the Big 12, which is beginning its 26th season, is very much in doubt, hence the 11th hour meeting with Texas and OU.
The conference could try to poach teams from the Group of Five. Or it could be poached itself, either by power conferences like the Pac-12, ACC or Big Ten or even the American.
The Big 12 could offer lucrative bowl contracts and media rights payouts through 2025. It would keep its status as an Autonomy 5 (think power five) Conference, which carries financial and governance advantages.
Is that enough to keep it together without the two schools that pretty much defined the league nationally?
Kansas State coaching legend Bill Snyder was one of the few offering an optimistic voice.
”The Big 12 came thru this before and will again,” Snyder tweeted. “Keep the faith. Bob Bowlsby and school Presidents are good leaders-negative talk won’t help.”
Matt Calkins: Here's why 12 is the perfect number of teams for the College Football Playoff expansion
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You'll see that number on the backs of jerseys on Blue Fridays or Seahawks game days, and hear broadcasters regularly laud the impact of the 12th Man.
But if this latest College Football Playoff proposal comes to pass, the rest of the country will have a similar reverence for 12. When it comes to playoff expansion, it's the perfect number.
Last Thursday, a four-person sub-group of the CFP management committee recommended expanding the playoff field from four teams to 12. The proposal would give automatic bids to the six highest-ranked conference champions, then six more at-large bids. This comes seven years after the first CFP tournament, which has always featured four teams.
Calls for expansion have rung out for years, with some pushing for eight teams, others 16, and former Washington State football coach Mike Leach recommending a 64-team tourney. But 12 makes sense. Here's why.