It had sort of, kind of seemed like the soap operatic Big 12 expansion drama was coming to its end.
The league’s been publicly flirting with adding more teams ever since it didn’t after the last big round of conference realignment, but its board of directors’ vote in June to establish two five-team football divisions suggested, by virtue of two times five equaling its current 10 members, that there’d be no expansion.
But on Monday, word came out that the 14-football team ACC was going ahead with a new TV deal with ESPN. Among other elements of the deal, the sports broadcasting giant is establishing an ACC Network TV channel, which sounds nice and lucrative.
When the Big 12 heard about the ACC’s shindig with ESPN, what did it think? Let’s hear from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, in a call with media on Tuesday:
Bowlsby says the ACC deal played an impact on their decision to reevaluate expansion.— Matt Brown (@MattSBN) July 19, 2016
And indeed, Big 12 expansion seems pretty well alive. Bowlsby is going to query candidates' interest in joining up, the league's going to consider adding to its membership by two or four teams.
Look, the reasoning here isn’t 100 percent clear. We’ll probably get a better sense of it in the weeks to come. But what is clear is that the Big 12 saw a shiny object, and now it’s sprinting headlong after it, just as expansion was climbing onto its deathbed.
The network news surely surprised Oklahoma's president, perhaps the conference's most vocal member:
Here was David Boren on conference networks six weeks ago ... then the ACC happened. pic.twitter.com/tnSSYk2vKe— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) July 19, 2016