Big 12 nets $198 million in revenue, completes bowl lineup
The Big 12, wounded by realignment four years ago, can celebrate its uniqueness as a 10-team league with no conference championship game.
DALLAS -- With realignment in hibernation, the Big 12 can accentuate its uniqueness coming out of this week’s spring meetings.
Or at least not look over its shoulder.
“You don’t have institutions fearing for their livelihood or their affiliation,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
After asking around to athletic directors and presidents this week, a little relief fills the Four Seasons Las Colinas halls.
Well-tread questions about which teams the Big 12 needs to add to strengthen the 10-team conference have been scarce. There are definitely no repeat questions from 2009 or 2010 about whether the league will dismantle.
The league mostly is dealing with growing its revenue pot, its bowl lineup, how, according to Kansas State president Kirk Schulz, the lack of a conference title game could help the league in the college football playoff race.
The league presidents voted on obscure league bylaws Friday, per Schulz. Boring stuff. That’s just the way he likes it.
“Now we’re really focused on moving ahead with the structure we have,” Schulz said. “People say, ‘What about expansion, what about this, what about that?’ and you say ‘Why,’ and they say, ‘Well, everybody else is doing it.’ We just think the pathway we’ve got is really the best moving forward.”
Bowlsby confirmed to CBSSports.com the league’s complete bowl lineup for 2014-19 --Sugar, Alamo, Russell Athletic, Liberty, Buffalo Wild Wings, Heart of Dallas and Meineke Car Care of Texas.
There’s one potential wrinkle: A rotation from the Liberty to the Sun Bowl on certain years, though Bowlsby said that concept has lost steam in recent weeks.
The Big 12 announced a revenue share of $198 million in 2012-13, which works out to $22 million to eight schools since new members West Virginia and TCU are on a 50-percent share this year ($11 million each). By 2015-16, those two schools will be fully vested.
The share doesn’t include schools’ third-tier rights or a signing bonus from the 13-year ESPN deal. Bowlsby sees a serious increase by 2015-16, when the media rights deals really kick in. The league’s Sugar Bowl pairing with the SEC will add $40 million per year, or $4 million per school.
As for more realignment among the five leading conferences, “I don’t see that,” Bowlsby said. Most are locked into long-term deals, and the ACC’s grant of rights certainly helps.
Perhaps if Mike Slive or Jim Delany decide to get weird, the landscape will change again. But both have said they are comfortable.
No realignment means conferences can re-establish their identities. Bowlsby said the Big 12 is undergoing a “fairly significant branding initiative.”
The Big 12 is sort of a power-conference outlier with 10 teams, no title game and no 24-hour network, but that uniqueness can work for the league and not against it, TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said.
“Let’s refocus on what these leagues really are,” Del Conte said. “The Big 12 is really deep. We take pride in who we are.”
Despite the league’s uncertainty of three years ago, Bowlsby said there’s much to celebrate, including what he calls a “tangible mutual improvement in trust” among the membership after healing the scar tissue of past battles.
Even Texas is happy. Longhorns president Bill Powers says it’s gratifying to see where the conferences is and that UT is happy with the league’s equal revenue shares (which is outside of the Longhorn Network structure).
“I can understand some uneasiness, especially with what’s gone on in the last few years,” Bowlsby said. “The further you are from a situation, the less you know about it. I think our league is rock solid.”
For all leagues, one of the significant upcoming challenges will be college football playoff positioning. Will having 10 teams and no conference championship game hurt the Big 12 in the eyes of the selection committee?
Schulz said he doesn’t believe so.
“I think it will help,” Schulz said. “And the fact we’re not playing a championship game means our champion is going to have that time to practice, to rest, to do some of those kinds of things.”
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