Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Big 12 Set to Expand in 2014
Anonymous sources at WVU and the Big 12 conference have confirmed that the Big 12 plans to expand from 10 to 12 institutions to coincide with the playoff system going into effect in 2014.
Big 12 officials notified several potential candidates via backchannels who had expressed interest earlier in the summer. Those notified include FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Miami form the ACC and Louisville from the Big East.
According to sources the Big 12 was able to overcome internal resistance to expansion because the lack of a conference championship game was beginning to bog down the finalization of the agreement between the Big 12 and SEC to meet in a new "Champions Bowl" starting after the 2014 season.
Several Big 12 members had opposed expansion because of questions about divisional alignment, increased travel costs, and scheduling.
Others opposed expansion because they perceived they would have an easier path to the playoffs without having to play in a conference championship game.
The SEC saw it the same way. The lack of a Big 12 conference championship game became a sticking point in the contract because the SEC understood it gave the Big 12 an unfair competitive advantage.
Whatever objections Big 12 members had to expansion were dropped once it was clear a conference championship game was unavoidable.
While there have been no official talks between Florida State University and the Big 12, both have expressed strong mutual interest and it is understood that FSU now has an open invitation to become the 11th member of the Big 12 conference.
Florida State's decision to leave the ACC for the Big 12 will be based on a thorough review of the financial projections provided by the Big 12 detailing estimated revenues from the TV contract, estimates of earnings from a conference championship game, estimates of revenues from the Champions Bowl, and their own internal assessment as to their earnings potential in the Big 12 versus the ACC.
FSU's valuation process will closely examine many factors including attendance, match-ups offered by potential Big 12 schedules, and any increase in T3 media rights FSU would receive and potential revenues from playoff profit sharing.
It is important to note that FSU and the Big 12 have not had official discussions. Yet I'm told that the money gap between the ACC and the Big 12 is large enough that FSU would leave the ACC for the Big 12 and begin conference play in 2014.
The question remains who is #12? There has been intense debate within the Big 12 about who offers the most value at #12 with Notre Dame being the preferred candidate of Texas and new commissioner Bob Bowlsby. However Notre Dame has expressed its desire to remain independent to both the Big 12 and ACC.
With Notre Dame out of the picture the best bets are Clemson, Georgia Tech and Maryland. Louisville continues to have their supporters in the conference but is a long-shot. Georgia Tech has expressed interest but is thought to be more open to a potential offer from the Big 10.
Keep in mind while it appears all internal barriers to expansion have been overcome there is no timetable for an announcement and there are still many hurdles yet to clear, and FSU and the Big 12 see no need to rush the process.
The Big 12's next step is to finalize it's television agreement with ESPN/Fox and secure the deal with the SEC for the new Champions Bowl.
Once the the TV contract is finalized and the RFP has been issued for the Champions Bowl it is very likely the Big 12 will begin official talks with those schools expressing interest in Big 12 membership including FSU.