Wednesday, the Big 12 won the right to hold a conference championship without having to expand to 12 teams. One would think that such legislation would cool talk about Big 12 expansion, but any sense of stability didn't last long. Shortly after the results, Oklahoma president David Boren told OU Daily that he still believes the Big 12 should expand.
The Big 12 is disadvantaged when compared to the other conferences in three ways. We do not have at least twelve members, we do not have a conference network, and we do not have a championship game. I think that all three of these disadvantages need to be addressed at the same time. Addressing only one without addressing all three will not be adequate to improve the strength of the conference.
In case that was too subtle, Boren followed up with the Tulsa World, with a more detailed plan on how to bring the Big 12 out of what he called "little brother" status, compared to the other power conferences. That plan would mean the end of the Longhorn Network:
Boren wants the Big 12 to expand to 12 teams, he wants the league to fold Texas' Longhorn Network and other third-tier properties into a Big 12 Network, and he wants a conference championship game. All at once, in that order, and immediately.
The Longhorn Network is currently the
Longhorn Elephant in the room, as the Big 12 wouldn't be able to start a conference-wide network as long as Texas has its own TV entity. But Texas reportedly makes near $15 million a year from ESPN, and it seems unlikely it would be interested in taking a major paycut for the good of the conference.
Would other Big 12 institutions be willing to guarantee Texas an increased revenue share to make up for the loss? And would ESPN, in an era of cable cord cutting and industry uncertainty, be even interested in launching another conference network?
In his full interview with the Tulsa World, Boren was not shy about advocating for expansion, ("at least two more teams") and indicated Oklahoma could be interested in joining another conference, like the Big Ten. When asked if Oklahoma had a standing invitation, Boren reiterated that his first choice is to stay in the Big 12, but while there have been no "official" invitations, "always, always informal conversations that we get approached (with) from time to time. ... I think there are always opportunities for Oklahoma."
That Boren feels this way should not be a major surprise, as he was the one who launched last year's Big 12 expansion speculation.
The Big 12 presidents will meet from February 4-5. It sure seems like those meetings could get a lot more interesting.