The Big 12's expansion process ended like it began. That would be as a waste of everyone's time.

After almost three months and seemingly endless speculation, the Big 12 finalized what a lot of us already knew from the beginning: The conference is not going to expand now or in the foreseeable future.

What that exactly means was not fleshed out in an hour-plus press conference that followed a six-hour presidents meeting Monday in Dallas. It only brought us right back around to where we started.

At the minimum, the Big 12 has eight years to live. That's not to say it will be eventually picked apart for spare parts by other power conferences. That's not to say it will be around when Baker Mayfield starts collecting social security.

Expansion wasn't going to decide that one way or the other. It just means the conference went through a convoluted, wasteful process to re-establish the obvious: There are no two schools out there that would enhance Big 12 football.

"The marketplace has, in essence, made that decision for us. We cannot command the marketplace," Oklahoma president Dave Boren said.

That's also not news. We knew that in July when this process began. Heck, we knew in July 2012 that the likes of UConn and Colorado State didn't bring much to Big 12 football.

Expansion or no, that's daily life in a conference that orbits the power, leverage and whims of Oklahoma and Texas.

The Big 12 has knee-jerked since the December day in 2014 that TCU and Baylor were left out of the first College Football Playoff. Instead of practicing patience, it acted out.

In the end, the Big 12 is the conference that cried wolf -- or Cincinnati or BYU or ... wait for it ... Tulane. It's the league that doesn't know what it wants.

The expansion process was a taffy pull with no winner, but everyone still felt very sticky at the end.

"Yes, I made one recommendation and that was we should bring this process to closure," commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. "We shouldn't kick the can down the road."

Bravo, but within minutes of proclaiming expansion dead, Boren the contrarian then uttered, "We would never say never."

Huh? Boren also kept making vague references to technology as if driverless cars were going to save the Big 12. If ESPN can't yet figure out how to monetize its WatchESPN app, what fiber optic cable is the Big 12 going to ride to success?

Big 12 Network? Dead. Expansion? Dead. Boren got one of the three enhancements he demanded in June 2015 (a conference championship game) when this "psychologically disadvantaged" process took off.

The marketplace decided that for you, too, Dave.

Yes, what a waste of time. Oklahoma, Texas and probably Oklahoma State were against expansion from the beginning. Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas were probably for it philosophically. More teams meant those programs didn't have to play Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Baylor each year.

But all that was evident three months ago when the presidents shockingly decided to take this carnival ride. All indications are that Bowlsby was in favor of expansion. So were the league's consultants (Navigate and BHV), which stood to enhance their resumes if the conference added schools.

"I made an hour and a half presentation [to the presidents] so I hope that had some influence on it," Bowlsby said.

Except the commissioner said he made no formal recommendation of individual schools. Bowlsby told me in March if the Big 12 did "nothing, 12 years from now we'll be $20 million per school behind the SEC and Big Ten."

Adding any schools would have triggered the infamous pro rata clause that would have netted the Big 12 millions. So does this decision begin the financial road to ruin?

"We're always concerned about revenue," Bowlsby said Monday.

So much so that the rightsholders might end up paying the Big 12 to not expand. It would be wrapped inside the negotiation for the price of the reinstated championship game that begins in 2017.

That game was once said to be worth $3 million annually to Big 12 schools. Don't be surprised if it ends up being worth, say, $5 million.

Expansion doesn't even have to enter the conversation. It's a negotiation. In reality, it's $50 million per year ESPN and Fox are paying instead of the $800 million to a $1 billion.

That's what they would have been on the hook for if the Big 12 expanded by four. Overpaying for the championship game actually becomes a net "savings" of $750 million to $950 million.

In that scenario, ESPN and Fox come out less pissed had the Big 12 exercised the Big Pro Rata.

Had any of the reported 11 finalists been chosen, they were looking at a revenue bump (in some cases) from $2 million to $30 million per year. Another friendly reminder: ESPN and Fox aren't in business to pay more for properties they already own.

They also didn't want a lot of Cincinnati-Iowa State inventory. This was such a bad move for those entities that Fox Sports president Eric Shanks went on the record recently with SportsBusiness Daily.

He called Big 12 expansion "harmful to the future of the conference."

What the heck were SMU, Tulane and Rice doing in the mix anyway?

"We knew our chances [of getting in] were one-tenth of one percent," said Rice athletic director Joe Kaarlgard. "It was more about showing our constituents we had ambition."

The real hurt has to be felt at Houston, Cincinnati and BYU. All three invested millions in presenting themselves as Power Five schools. In many ways, they are. For now and for a long time, they now remain relegated to conference football's discount store -- the Group of Five.

Their access to the College Football Playoff remains akin to getting the last crumb of an Oreo. Whatever emotions they're having right now -- jilted, misled, left at the altar -- are all valid.

Yes, what a waste of time. Those 11 finalists schlepped their way to Dallas last month for their presentations. The entire process cost each school about $10,000 to $15,000.

That's not a budget breaker by any means. But it was like Charlie Brown staring down that football. You just know, no matter what, Lucy is going to pull it out from under you.

"Gathering of information is never a waste of time," Boren said.

Tell that to the folks you put through this.