Report: ESPN, Fox Willing To Pay To Nix Big 12 Expansion

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A new report indicates the insufferable Big 12 expansion saga will mercifully be coming to end within the next three days.

Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel reports the conference school presidents will convene in Dallas Sunday and Monday to discuss the conference’s future, with an announcement currently set for Monday evening. For three months now, this ordeal has solely consisted of will-they-won’t-they expansion talks. Now, it seems the conference may be willing to negotiate with their television partners to maintain the status quo.


ESPN and FOX, who have a deal worth $2.6 billion over 13 years to televise Big 12 games, are reportedly offering to pay off current conference members to keep the conference at its current roster of ten schools. The Big 12 TV deal includes a pro rata clause that stipulates each member school is due about $20 million annual payout, meaning the addition of two more teams would run them a total of $40 million. ESPN and FOX are reportedly willing to pay the league to erase that clause, as well.

As Sports Business Journal reported in August, the television networks have opposed expansion for this very reason—the Big 12 was said to have also been considering a four-team expansion move, which would have upped the yearly bill by $80 million, though various reports have indicated a two-team addition was being favored.


All of this is to be taken with a giant, massive grain of salt. The television companies seem to be the only ones who have made up their mind about their stance on the matter. David Boren—Oklahoma president, Big 12 board chair, and most influential person involved in the decision-making process—has flip-flopped publicly a number of times now, with his latest comments to ESPN in September that expansion is not “a given,” falling more in line with the June comments of Texas athletic director Mike Perrin.

The 11 finalists, per ESPN, are Air Force, BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Connecticut, Houston, Rice, SMU, South Florida, and Tulane. Whether it be travel issues or recruiting competition, the Big 12 will have a number of reasons to cite should it choose to reject all candidates.

Houston and BYU have long been thought to be front-runners to nab the first two spots due to their established football programs, athletic facilities, and fan bases. But BYU’s anti-LGBT honor code—which states that acting on homosexual feelings is a violation—has brought with it social pressure from LGBT groups, who, per the Dallas Morning News, have asked the Big 12 to look elsewhere for a new conference member. Houston, on the other hand, is a 18-2 through a season-and-a-half under coach Tom Herman, beat Oklahoma in the season-opener, and has a Twitter account that definitely isn’t taking shots at its expansion competition.


All 11 candidates vying to move up from the Group of Five to get a slice of that Power Five TV money will be notified of the Big 12's decision this Monday at 6 p.m., according to SI.