College football expansion is a complicated business, but for the Big 12 it's easy math.
Split $2.6 billion 10 ways. The Big 12 can dangle those numbers in front of anyone who tells it to expand. For 13 years under ESPN/Fox, the Big 12 is eating well. Colleague Dennis Dodd laid out in detail why the Big 12 is comfortable. The league is bracing for $30-plus-million per school once the playoff hits in 2014.
But in case the Big 12 decides to get aggressive, could the cash flow increase along with the number of teams?
Yes and no, according to commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Most contracts have a conference composition clause – also called a look-in – that can accommodate new teams.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby acknowledges the Big 12 has some moving contractual parts that could sweeten the pot if necessary, but adds certain bottom lines must be shared evenly, regardless of the league's size.
“It would trigger a re-negotiation of those parts of the contract that would be out of date,” Bowlsby said. “It grows in some ways and it doesn't in others.”
With 12 teams instead of 10, perhaps that $2.6 billion could grow to $3 billion – especially with a school attractive to networks -- but Bowlsby didn't speculate over exact amounts.
Keep in mind, an underrated part of the Big 12's current setup is splitting Sugar Bowl money 10 ways in the latter part of that 12-year contract with the SEC.
A source with knowledge of the deal told me the total earnings escalate over time. The bowl is worth an average of $80 million per year, but it starts at around $64 million excluding host fees (up to $10 million) and rises to well over $90 million toward the back end, over $100 million with host fees.
That would mean at least $5 million per school from the Sugar Bowl alone in years when the bowl isn't in the semifinal rotation. The SEC distributes its share 14 ways.
Just another reason why the Big 12 doesn't find strength in numbers – at least not right now.
Though he'll weigh all options as they come, Bowlsby doesn't sound like a guy who wants to help devour other conferences.
“I am having trouble getting over the feeling that intercollegiate athletics is better if the ACC or the Big East goes away as a football institution,” Bowlsby said.