TV, proximity and prowess factor in Big 12 expansion plans

Oklahoma President David Boren said the conference was “psychologically disadvantaged” with only 10 teams.

“I do not have any candidates at this point,” Boren said.

Boren has reportedly heard from 25 schools that have a level of interest in joining the Big 12.

One stumbling block is TV revenues. Texas currently gets about $15 million a year from the Longhorn Network. Boren wants Texas to give up that network in favor of a Big 12 Network, which would generate more cash for everyone – including UT. Boren said expansion is not needed if you don’t have a network.

And the Big 12 must have 12 teams to restore its championship game (which would add about $3 million in added revenue to each member school).

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said his conference is not looking for additions. Since 2010, the Big Ten has added Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland.

Big 12 Mileage

80 miles OU to OSU
200 miles OU to TCU
300 miles OU to Baylor
300 miles OU to Kansas State
330 miles OU to Texas Tech
360 miles OU to Kansas
375 miles OU to Texas
600 miles OU to Iowa State
1,175 miles OU to West Virginia

Tulsa is in the heart of Big 12 country and it has a rich tradition in football success and has an up-and-coming basketball program.

But TU has a small stadium and a fickle fan base. When Oklahoma or Oklahoma State play in Tulsa, the stadium sells out but with mostly OU or OSU fans.

While Arkansas has not had great success in the SEC with football, financial considerations keyed to TV rights would prevent the Hogs from jumping to the Big 12.

Houston has an undergraduate enrollment of 35,000 and is in the heart of Big 12 country. But the Big 12 already has that TV market and Texas might not want another Texas school in the mix.

BYU has a strong football program and has upset Oklahoma (2009) and Texas (2013 and 2014) in the past 8 years. Since 1980, only seven other schools (including Oklahoma) have won more games than BYU.

BYU averaged almost 60,000 fans per game in 2014, which would have been the fourth highest if they were in the Big 12.

BYU is tied to the Mormon Church, with 15 million members worldwide. This would be a sharp contrast to the Big 12 religious makeup, which is mostly Evangelical (Baylor is a Baptist university). And BYU doesn’t compete on Sundays for religious reasons.

BYU is in the Mountain Time Zone and would be the only Big 12 member that far west. Provo, Utah is almost 2,000 miles from Morgantown, West Virginia. No Big 12 campus is closer than 850 miles to Provo. BYUtv could be a plus or a minus.

Boise State has been a football powerhouse since 1999, winning 10 games 13 times in 16 years. Pairing BYU and Boise State in the Big 12 might make some sense because of geography.

Boise would contribute little apart from football and it is not a top-100 TV market.

Colorado State is another school that could be paired with BYU. It would bring in the Denver TV market. The Rams won 10 games or more five times in the last 20 years. They are building a new stadium, which will be ready in 2017.

The downside is that CSU is in another time zone.

Air Force in Colorado Springs and New Mexico are not football powerhouses but they could bring in TV markets.

Central Florida has the largest undergraduate enrollment in the country. It is in Orlando, Florida – a Top 20 TV market. It would open recruiting doors to Big 12 schools.

UCF has only been in Division 1 since 1996 but they clobbered Baylor in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl. Unfortunately, they went 0-12 last year and had to get a new coach. And attendance for football games was about 30,000 on average last year in a stadium that holds 45,000.

South Florida in Tampa would bring many of the same attributes as Central Florida – a big new TV market, access to recruiting, etc.

The Big 12 has the No. 5 market (Dallas/Fort Worth) and No. 10 market (Houston) and combining Orlando and Tampa/St. Pete would add two of the Top 10 markets in the nation.

But South Florida has a poor football tradition and meager fan support. They started football in 1997 and have only won 10 games twice in that period. Their football attendance was only 26,000 last season.

Adding Cincinnati would be a boost for West Virginia in terms of geography. Cincinnati is in a Top-40 TV market and recently renovated its stadium. Cincinnati has been to two BCS bowl recently and several big companies support the school.

Cincinnati can’t compete with Ohio State in football and is very close to Kentucky, a basketball powerhouse.

Connecticut is a state school that would bring in TV viewers. It has had success in basketball but has little football tradition. Geographically, it is not a good fit.

Houston has a growing football tradition, going 13-1 last season. It conceivably could follow the same path as TCU.

Memphis has been getting better in football, although Coach Justin Fuente just left for Virginia Tech. Memphis could deliver FedEx as a corporate sponsor and help recruiting in Tennessee.

But the Tigers’ facilities are undersized and it’s unsure if the football success will continue.

Tulane has great academics and could deliver and New Orleans TV market and entry into Louisiana recruiting. The downside is that Tulane has only had two winning seasons in football in the past 15 years.

In 2011, the Big 12 was in a panic as Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten and Colorado went to the Pac-12 while Texas A&M and Missouri went to the SEC. That left the Big 12 with eight teams. The Pac-12 tried to recruit Oklahoma and Texas (possibly along with OSU and Texas Tech) but the Big 12 was saved by adding TCU (formerly of the Southwest Conference) and West Virginia out of the Big East.

There is no panic now and the Big 12 can be more deliberative.

TV money is critical. In 2015, the Big 12 paid members a bit more than $23 million each for full-member schools. That was about $9 million less than what the average SEC school got.

The Big Ten signed a new deal with Fox for $25 million. That sparked conversations about a new TV deal for the Big 12.

OU President David Boren said he wants Texas to drop the Longhorn Network so that a Big 12 Network can be created. Boren said Texas should not have to lose money to make that deal. ESPN pays Texas an average of $15 million a year.