Could The Big 12 Revert To Being The Big 8?
The departure of Texas and Oklahoma from the NCAA Big 12 Conference creates an uncertain future for the remaining eight universities.
The simultaneous announcements by the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma that they have accepted invitations to join the Southeastern Conference caught fans and administrators by surprise.
The Longhorns and Sooners will officially become members of the SEC in July 2025 but could depart before that. That decision, much like the one to change conferences, is in no small part based on money. As sports reporter Dennis Dodd notes, leaving the Big 12 early means the schools "will owe the Big 12 $80 million each in penalties."
Unhappy with the loss suffered by his conference, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby charges that sports network ESPN colluded with Texas, Oklahoma and the American Athletic Conference to break up the Big 12.
ESPN denies the charge, but Dodd asks, "How can ESPN not be involved if for no other reason to tell these schools, 'Okay, this is what you'd be worth to this particular conference?' And it's in their best interests to control the market," which Dodd points out "is an inherent conflict of interest."
The departures to the SEC will allow the network to charge higher advertising rates and boost subscriber numbers as fans will pay more to see their teams.
The future of the eight remaining Big 12 schools begins with them sticking together, according to Dodd. Each will continue to receive $37 million for the remaining four years of their conference contract.
The Big 12 does have options, such as adding teams from other conferences or entering into scheduling alliances or mergers with those conferences. Returning to its original state as the Big Eight and seeing what other revenue prospects are available, including streaming services, is also a possibility, Dodd says.
For a school like the University of Kansas, though, there may be an advantage in its basketball program having avid fans "whose numbers are actually competitive with college football," according to The Athletic. Jayhawk hoops is a brand unto itself and could turn out to be a great bargaining chip for the conference.
However it turns out, this latest conference shakeup, says Dodd, "could reset and change college athletics as we know it."