The Big 12 announced Monday that it's not gonna expand after all. This has renewed much angst over the conference's immediate and long-term future, some of it reasonable and some of it classifiable as mere hollerin'.
Here's a good, candid interview of Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard by KXNO. Some of Pollard's comments, as transcribed in part by 247Sports:
[Big 12] commissioner [Bob] Bowlsby was kind of forced into having to go through this process. When you know that the athletic administrators think that the best solution is the solution we currently have, why would we then want to say, 'No, we'd rather have 12 members?'
Because we want to add more schools to this league that are going to be like Rutgers or Boston College in their conferences? Which have no fans coming to the games, and they're getting outscored 170 to whatever it was. In Boston College's case, haven't won a game in two to three years in their conference. That totally dilutes your value.
At 10, we give ourselves a lot more flexibility down the road versus adding maybe members that would only clutter up the process. People say, 'In eight years, Texas and Oklahoma are going to bolt.' Well, if we added teams and forced it on them, I guarantee they'd bolt. So that's a part of this process that people aren't thinking about.
The Big 12 exists because we have Texas and Oklahoma in the room. If we take Texas and Oklahoma out of the room, we're the Mountain West Conference, and we're getting $3 million [in annual TV revenue, a drastic decrease]. We've got two star players, whether people want to like that or not: Texas and Oklahoma.
I'm glad to be on a team that's got two great players. We benefit from being on that team. We could go play on a team and be the star, but then people would be saying, 'How do you get us in one of those Power Five conferences, Mr. AD?'"
I don't fault anybody for making a mockery of the process from the outside, because if you were on the outside, that's what it looked like. I think the best thing that could happen for the Big 12, is that everybody who's talking about what they think they know is the right answer to quit talking about it, and just let the ADs go do what they need to do.
I think it's fair to say that a lot more money will be coming into the Big 12 over the next eight years. The league is really strong. Everybody just wants to beat it up.
I guarantee as it appears today, somebody's not going to get in the College Football Playoff this year. If it's a Big 12 team, I can guarantee somebody's going to say, 'It's because the Big 12 didn't expand.' I guarantee that will be the narrative, because it's an easy narrative to pick on. But I'd remind them, it's never quite as clear as any of us would like it to be.
Pollard also said he understands the mockery of the Big 12's public process, said the only tangible difference between ISU and many of the candidates who didn't make the cut is Power 5 membership, and confirmed no votes on expansion were actually taken by presidents, meaning the conference's messaging on the decision being unanimous is a little fuzzy.
Big 12 expansion is minimally relevant in the context of the College Football Playoff. The league has made one of two Playoff brackets, the same as the Pac-12 and more than Notre Dame and all non-Power 5 conferences.
If it misses this year, it'll be because it fared poorly in non-conference and played a schedule with one fewer game than other conferences (it's adding a conference title game next year, despite Oklahoma making it in without one last year), not because it didn't add Cincinnati and whoever for two or three years from now.
For the long term, nobody knows what the media landscape will look like when the conference's revenue-sharing deal ends in eight years and everyone is free to leave. If Texas and Oklahoma see better situations elsewhere, Texas and Oklahoma will likely pursue them. (Pollard notes the Big Ten and Pac-12 have similar grant-of-rights deals that are also scheduled to end within the next decade; the Pac-12's finances are well behind the Big Ten's and SEC's and similar to the Big 12's.)
But adding Cincinnati and whoever two or three years from now was never gonna glue UT and OU to the Big 12 forever anyway.
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