We're live from the lobby of the Four Seasons in Irving, Texas, where Big 12 athletic directors are considering expanding to 24 teams (take that, Jim Delany).
Well, 24 might be quasi-accurate depending on how commissioner Bob Bowlsby structures this “alliance” with a 14-team ACC. The two could enhance their scheduling portfolio while staving off real expansion -- at least in theory -- though talks haven't progressed beyond the exploratory phase.
The alliance will be on the agenda during the two-day meetings, as will “conference composition, academic discussion, where things are heading, future bowl agreements, where do we want to go from here,” according to league spokesman Bob Burda.
Basically, the Big 12 is two years into a 10-team league, which means it's time to take stock.
Burda says these meetings aren't designed to “reach any conclusion, operative or recommendation.” But discussions like these could mushroom to something bigger, especially with an imaginative commissioner that likes to explore various concepts (last month, it was asking the NCAA to drop the 12-team requirement for having a conference championship game).
It's a crucial time for a conference that will bring in a national high $26.2 million in per-school revenue (according to Forbes) but has been muscled out of the national title picture the last two years.
During the pre-meeting luncheon, I spoke with a few people about the expected tone of the meeting. Based on those talks, here are a few questions or topics that could be addressed.
- How to maximize value without splitting up money more than 10 ways?
- Assuming the national landscape remains steady for a few years, most ADs really like 12, one AD said. Question is, will expansion become a necessity? Couple shrewd moves against you and you can drop from 3 to 6 in the power conference rankings just like that.
- Exit fees, exit fees, exit fees: Everyone's carefully watching that Maryland/ACC lawsuit for more than $50 million.
- For some, Bowlsby's comments to the Austin American-Statesman about an ACC alliance are the first they've heard of the concept. This meeting will address that curiosity.
- This isn't the first time these gentlemen have talked about expansion. Discussions like these don't happen in a vacuum.
- Which teams could add at least $26.2 million in annual value? That question needs to get answered, if it hasn't been already.
- Scheduling and bowl agreements will loom large during these meetings. One athletic director said he expects the five power conferences will structure their bowl agreements to avoid teams visiting the same bowl for two or three years in a row.
- One ACC source floated the idea to me about an ACC/Big 12 Network, but that appears unlikely and Bowlsby said the alliance discussions don't involve a multi-conference network. Big 12 schools have their third-tier rights tied up. West Virginia, for example, just signed a 12-year broadcast deal with IMG. Would have cumbersome to break such deals up.