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Big 12 commissioner: League could be 'proactive' in expansion

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The Big 12 could be “proactive” in expansion this time around, its commissioner Bob Bowlsby told reporters on Wednesday.

While attending the NCAA Convention here, Bowlsby was asked if his conference would have to be reactive in whatever next form conference realignment takes. In each of the last two offseasons, the Big 12 has had to replace two teams. While no one expects the conference to lose teams -- it has a rock-solid, 13-year grant-of-rights -- the league may have a big decision to make about adding teams.

For 2013, the Big 12 and Big East will be FBS' smallest conferences (10 teams).

“We could be proactive [in conference alignment], I think,” Bowlsby said.

The dominoes could start tumbling again if the Big Ten once again raided the ACC. That would create instability that could lead to this scenario: Clemson and Florida State calling the Big 12. At that point the Big 12 would have that decision to make. Stay at 10 or expand to further flyover states for potentially more conference revenue.

But could the Big 12 make a move before it has to make a move? Florida State certainly has seemed willing to listen in the past. Along with Maryland, is the other ACC team that didn't vote for the $50 million exit fee. As of last month the hottest buzz in the industry had the Big Ten targeting Georgia Tech and Virginia.

“We continue to watch the landscape,” Bowlsby said. “Until we're persuaded that larger is better we feel pretty good about right where we are. If you get bigger do you have to get to 16? Can you get all the benefits at 14? 12? I just think there is a real shortage of empirical evidence to guide our decisions.”

Expansion will be among the issues discussed at the next conference meetings Jan. 28-29 in Dallas.

“I think a clear mandate comes from a clear set of data that says, ‘This is the right thing to do.' Bowlsby added. “I'm not sure that intuition is the best reason [for other schools to] leave.”

CBSSports.com quoted Bowlsby in November as saying the league was happy with 10 members.The issue remains whether adding additional remembers would bring pro rata – equal or higher money than the current schools make.

“That's exactly one of the questions we'll be asking ourselves,” Bowlsby said Wednesday. “Look at Maryland and Rutgers. They don't bring programs that are of the ilk of the others in the Big Ten. The philosophy clearly is: ‘As members of the Big Ten we can grow them.' “

CBSSports.com also reported that a 12-team Big 12 that played a conference championship game would get only $700,000-$1 million more per school per year. Bowlsby reiterated Wednesday that he supports doing away with an NCAA bylaw that requires conferences to have 12 teams to stage a league championship game.

There is no current plan for the Big 12 to split into two, five-team divisions and stage a conference title game. As of now, the league merely wants an option for a championship game.

“In a period of deregulation does it make sense that the [NCAA] is ascribing the way we determine our champion?” Bowlsby said. “Does it make any difference if we have 10 members and we take our two highest ranked teams at the end of the year and have them playoff one more time and the champion goes on to whatever the postseason is? It's just another area of deregulation that we think is worthy of consideration.”

At the moment, Big 12 schools cash TV rights revenue checks for approximately $20 million per year. One industry source said the league could be making as much as $30 million per school in 2014, the first year of the playoff.

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