Once again, on the topic of Big 12 Conference expansion, University of Oklahoma president David Boren provided the sound.
Speaking to reporters after the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents meeting Thursday, Boren, the most outspoken official from a Big 12 school when it comes to expansion, tied league growth to a potential Big 12 television network.
“If you’re going to have a network, you’re probably going to have to have 12 or 14 members,” Boren said.
Without the expanded total, Boren said there wouldn’t be enough content to supply a network.
There are other issues when it comes to a network. Texas has its own channel, the Longhorn Network, worth $15 million annually to its athletic department. Would Texas consider folding its network into a Big 12 structure?
The indications are no, although Boren said a Big 12 network would include the same revenue the Longhorns already receive. “You have to devise a revenue distribution that lets (Texas) get paid back … you can’t expect them to give up $15 million,” he said.
Currently the other Big 12 schools control their own third-tier media rights, which Texas has given to ESPN to run the Longhorn Network, and schools receive $3 million to $6 million each from those deals.
But without a TV deal, the league might as well stand pat at 10 teams, Boren said.
“If you’re not going to have a network, you don’t need an expansion,” he said.
Over the past few weeks, several schools have publicly expressed an interest in joining the Big 12, a Power Five conference tied to multi-billion dollar media contracts.
Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and Colorado State have lobbied members of the Big 12’s composition committee. Memphis’ candidacy comes with this sweetener: Memphis-based FedEx is vowing to sponsor a Big 12 football championship game.
Cincinnati and Brigham Young are among others often mentioned as candidates if the Big 12 chooses to grow. Boren said he’s received materials from “about 25 different schools” looking to join the conference.
Expansion talk picked up steam in recent weeks after Big 12 football coaches and athletic directors were presented a study from a research firm that showed a 12-team Big 12 was 10-to-15 percent more likely to land a team in the College Football Playoff.
Boren said he doesn’t expect a decision on expansion until the end of the year and that the Sooners, coming off a school year in which they reached the College Football Playoff and the men’s basketball Final Four, are happy where they are.
“We’re a member of the Big 12,” he said. “We don’t plan on going anywhere … we want to help strengthen this conference in whatever way.”