MORGANTOWN — On Friday, the Big 12 Conference officially announced the addition of four new members — BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston — but league commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not shut the door on further expansion in the future.
“I think we’re always going to be open to opportunities as they present themselves,” said Bowlsby during a press conference to welcome the four new members. “We’re living in a very fast-changing athletic environment.
“As there are targets of opportunity or situations that dictate that we change composition, we’ll be prepared to do those things,” he added.
BYU, which is an independent in football and a member of the West Coast Conference in most other sports, is slated to join the Big 12 at the start of the 2023-24 athletic year. Bowlsby said that UCF, Cincinnati and Houston, all of which are currently members of the American Athletic Conference, will each move to the Big 12 “not later than July 1, 2024. It could be in ’23, but that hasn’t been determined yet,” Bowlsby said.
Oklahoma and Texas will be leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, though the exact date of their departure has still not been revealed.
“We’ll be at 14 for a while, and we’ll drop back to 12,” noted Bowlsby, referring to a league that could contain both those arriving and those departing for a couple years.
Most believe Oklahoma and Texas are in negotiations to try to exit the Big 12 prior to the end of their current contracted grant of rights, which runs another four years.
In terms of the finances for those who will be part of the new-look Big 12, which has a TV contract running through 2025, the commissioner said the changing broadcast world makes it hard to predict exactly what the league’s broadcast rights will be worth in the future.
The Big 12’s present TV deals with ESPN and FOX bring the league a total of $200 million per year. The conference’s total payout to each school, with the inclusion of not only TV money but also income from the NCAA, bowls, league championships, etc., is in the neighborhood of $37 million annually. What that is in the future is something the Big 12 commission says is hard to project.
“You can’t forecast right now that it will be this much more or this much less,” said Bowlsby.
The Big 12’s lineup change has been incredibly swift. Less than two months ago those in the league — as well as most everyone in college athletics — were shocked by the revelation that Texas and Oklahoma were leaving the conference they helped found in 1996 and moving to the SEC. Now, 46 days after the Longhorns and Sooners officially informed the Big 12 of their decision to depart, the conference they are leaving has reconstructed itself with four new members, who are set to join the eight who remain.
“We are adding four great universities today,” said Bowlsby. “It’s a good day — 200,000 students, three additional states, 40 million in population, three of the best recruiting areas in the entire nation, tremendously successful broad-based athletic programs led by some outstanding coaches and administrators, so it’s a good day by any measure.”