Big 12 Conference expansion rumors have shifted focus, changing from which potential members would be added to the league to whether the Big 12 would continue to exist if the conference passes on expansion.
These latest rumors have come from unnamed industry sources, ESPN reported earlier this week. Citing comments that Oklahoma University president David Boren made that the Big 12 expansion would only happen if it would add to the long-term stability of the league, some pundits are beginning to forecast the end of the conference should it pass on adding new members.
Central to that long-term stability is the happiness of cornerstone programs at the University of Texas and Oklahoma University. According to the article, neither the Longhorns nor the Sooners have committed to staying with the Big 12 conference even with an expansion.
“So far, neither Texas nor Oklahoma has indicated it would agree to a grant of rights extension under any scenario. Without the extension, the clock will continue to tick on the Big 12, regardless of whether it expands or not, as the Longhorns and Sooners will be free to leave for greener pastures when the rights expire.”
Without Texas and Oklahoma on board with expansion, it’s feasible the Big 12 Conference would be facing even more members defecting to other Power 5 leagues. College football insiders agreed that such a scenario could arise when the Big 12 members’ grant of television rights expires in 2024.
“‘If the two parents don’t commit [to signing the extension],’ said one industry source, ‘what does that tell you?’ Said another: The Big 12 ‘could be close to the end.'”
Those rumors took on new life this week as Sports Illustrated reported that Oklahoma University president David Boren, a proponent of Big 12 expansion this summer, seemed to change positions on the issue. The article interviewed multiple sources within the league to confirm that Boren had switched sides on expansion, citing a September 14 interview the university leader gave suggesting expansion was far from guaranteed as proof that the Oklahoma University president had changed his opinion.
Boren, who also serves as the chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors, has had several opportunities to clarify his position on the issue. Yet the president has done little to quiet the questions surrounding his conference’s future, including his latest statement on the subject.
“I do not know where the speculation came from, but Oklahoma has not yet taken a position on expansion.”
Boren had been the most vocal proponent to adding members to the Big 12 through expansion, ESPN reported in September. The Oklahoma University president called the conference “psychologically disadvantaged” in May shortly before the conference added a championship game in football for the 2017 season. Boren has also pushed for a Big 12 network to accompany expansion.
While the Big 12 expansion once seemed inevitable, the latest rumors facing the beleaguered conference is that passing on adding members could be a forgone conclusion. SB Nation reported that TCU, one of the newest members in the Big 12, will vote against expansion proceedings, according to a source familiar with the university’s thinking.
“This decision, according to the source, has been developing over several months as the university has reviewed its options, the options available to the conference and its members, and the opinions of key stakeholders within and around TCU. Ultimately, with significant input from key stakeholders, a decision not to act on expansion at this time has been deemed the ‘best worst option’ for the Horned Frogs and the Big 12.”
What do you think about the Big 12 Conference’s chances of folding if expansion does not move forward? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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