The Big 12 should not expand in order to maximize its earning power, a source intimately involved in the conference's TV negotiations told CBSSports.com on Thursday.
"If it were me I'd try to stay where I am," said the source. "Nine months ago they had the same money for 10 teams. Is anything going to change if they have nine?"
Texas A&M's formal departure to the SEC this week reduced the Big 12 to nine teams. Missouri is still contemplating whether also to pursue membership in the SEC. With nine teams, the source said, not only would the conference get an expected windfall for its primary rights fees following the 2015 season, it would provide nine more non-conference games as inventory.
"That's more attractive to the networks than BYU-Iowa State," said source who did not want to be identified because of his relationship with the league.
BYU is widely speculated to be joining the Big 12 should it expand. A nine-team league would allow the Big 12 to keep playing a round-robin conference schedule (eight games) while scheduling four non-conference games. The league currently plays a nine-game conference schedule with three non-conference games.
Both Fox and ESPN committed to saving the league in 2010 after the Pac-12 almost raided the Big 12 of half of its team. The 10 remaining schools were guaranteed approximately $20 million each when the conference's primary rights deal with ESPN expired after the 2015-16 academic year.
Fox began to fulfill that promise when the league agreed to a $1.13 billion deal for 13 years for its secondary rights earlier this year. The source said neither Fox nor ESPN were going pay less than promised in 2010 for the Big 12 at nine teams, or perhaps even eight teams. It's not clear if Fox or ESPN have a cancellation clause of their contracts if league membership falls below a certain number.
Staying at nine, said the source, would make it easier for conference schools to get to that $20 million per-team plateau. For example, with nine teams the new Fox deal alone is worth $9.6 million per team. In the latest round of conference realignment schools either are a "brand" or have markets. While more teams would bring more inventory (games) to bid on, the question is: Would each new school bring $20 million to the table individually?
The Big 12 has a long way to go before answering that question. It hasn't been determined whether the schools have committed their primary media rights to the conference for six years. That would essentially hold the conference together but no one is quite sure where that issue stands. Oklahoma president David Boren said a week all the remaining schools had agreed. Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton merely said the issue was being discussed.
The Missouri board of curators will reportedly meet on Tuesday. The board could merely empower Deaton to seek another conference although there is no indication which way the school is leaning.
Big 12 expansion speculation is all over the map -- from staying at nine to going to 16 teams.