Big 12 Expansion Rumors: Texas Keeping League From Expanding, Creating League Network

Rumors are swirling that a single school — the University of Texas — is keeping the Big 12 Conference from its expansion plans as well as securing a lucrative network deal.

That’s the latest development from a college football conference that again seems ripe for changes in the coming months, thanks to recent spring meetings the Big 12 coaches and athletic directors held in Phoenix earlier this month. According to the Inquisitr, rumors suggest the league could target new members as early as this summer to join the Big 12 after receiving reports that adding a title game could enhance the champion’s chance at being selected for the college football playoffs.

The Cincinnati Enquirer was the first to report Texas was holding up expansion proceedings for the Big 12. To make changes, a super majority of eight of the 10 schools is required to pass the policy changes. Rumors have placed seven of the Big 12 schools — Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia University — as being in favor for expansion.

The remaining three schools are taking their cues from the Longhorns’ administration. The University of Texas and Texas Tech have been members of the same conference since 1956, and the public universities are both against adding further schools that may not help the conference monetize new members. Rumors suggest that these schools will continue to stick together throughout the entire process.

That leaves Texas Christian University as the swing vote in deciding upon expansion, according to the rumors. TCU is believed to be siding with Texas on the issue, a position the school is taking after Longhorn brokered a spot in the Big 12 for the Horned Frogs in 2012.

Texas has multiple reasons to squash any potential expansion. For starters, Texas is the only university in the country to have its own ESPN-funded network for its third-tier rights. The school signed a contract with the media outlet in 2011, giving the school a 20-year, $15 million incentive to house their Olympic sports and some low-level revenue-producing games on the network, the Dallas Morning News recapped.

While the network has been deemed a failure financially for ESPN, Texas has taken great pride in the product being produced. A Big 12 Conference network would not be lucrative without all schools involved, so Texas would have to yield their third-tier rights to the conference in order to make a network plausible.

Rumors have run rampant that Texas would rather leave the conference than yield on expansion and network issues, the Austin American-Statesman suggested in a recent article. The writer — Longhorns insider Kirk Bohls — wrote that the only way the Longhorn Network would be folded would “be to change conferences, in my opinion.”

University of Oklahoma President David Boren — who is also the Big 12 Chairman of the Board — expressed that the conference would be willing to work with the Longhorns should Texas decided to end the network. Boren said he was open to unequal revenue sharing for such a project, expressing that Texas would need to be made whole financially in order to consider a network.

Texas also seems in no hurry to move on the Big 12 expansion issues. The Dallas Morning News reported that Longhorn interim AD Mike Perrin is unwilling to yield from their position, according to comments Perrin made before the Phoenix meetings.

“I can’t say I’ve got an open mind on any of these issues. I can say I’ve got an open mind for receiving data.”

Who the conference will target is anyone’s guess, but several potential members have emerged from rumors. The Big 12 could target as many 10 different schools, but institutions such as Houston, Memphis, BYU, and Connecticut appear to be the favorites should the Big 12 settle upon expansion. Either BYU and UConn seem to be a lock to earn one of the openings, the Inquisitr reported.

Do you think Texas is blocking the Big 12 Conference’s plans for expansion, a network and title game? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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