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The Big 12 extended its commissioner’s deal until the exact moment the conference could fall apart

The schools have a deal to stick together until June 2025. Their commish is now locked in until then, too.

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NCAA Football: Texas Christian at West Virginia
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 Conference extended commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s contract through June 2025, it announced Friday. That exact deal length sure is interesting.

In the summer of 2016 and at other points over the last few years, the Big 12 publicly flirted with expansion beyond 10 teams. That didn’t come to fruition, and it probably won’t any time soon. But eventually, the league could move the other way and shrink.

The Big 12’s grant of rights expires exactly when Bowlsby’s deal does.

June 30, 2025.

“Grant of rights” is a jargony term, but it’s what it sounds like. Every team in a conference agrees to be bound by certain rules, and the “rights” they grant to the league are media rights. That’s crucial for the Big 12’s stability, because it’ll almost certainly prevent any school from ditching the league until the deal ends.

When a school leaves a conference, the allure of more money is usually a big reason. Specifically, that refers to money from conference media rights agreements. Under the Big 12’s GOR, the Big 12 gets to keep the TV money a member school generates, even after it leaves, through the end of the agreement.

You can read the conference’s grant-of-rights agreement here, if it interests you.

When the grant of rights expires, the Big 12 might expire, too.

Nothing’s certain. Predicting how the conference landscape will look in eight years is difficult if not impossible, and the Big 12’s plans might change (and then change again, and again) in the years between now and June 30, 2025.

The Big 12 pays its schools pretty well: $34.8 million apiece for the 2016-17 school year, its leaders say, which is competitive with the likes of the ACC and Pac-12. It’s less than SEC payouts, though, and the Big Ten’s on a TV rocket ride that will reportedly net its member schools more than $50 million per year.

So it’s possible that some of the Big 12’s teams will get poached by other conferences once the grant of rights nears its expiration. Given that the league has only 10 teams, it really can’t shrink further and survive as a powerful athletic conference — especially if any of the teams leaving happened to be powers like Texas and Oklahoma.

If the Big 12 went away, its teams would probably scatter all around the country. Some would fare better than others. Texas and Oklahoma would have an easier time finding quality new homes than Iowa State and Baylor would, for instance. The Power 5 could become the Power 4, or maybe there’d be some wider wave of realignment.

Bowlsby’s extension is an expression of faith — but only to a point.

The Big 12’s presidents clearly think he’s doing a good job. They’re just not sure he’ll have a league to run beyond the last day of the contract he just signed.