September 24, 2021
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first_imgBig 12 expansion is terribly confusing, isn’t it? I read about this stuff literally for a living, as part of my job, and it takes me hours to sort everything out and redefine all the corporate-speak buzzwords and BS terminology used by school administrators.And the math to make a conference go ’round is another thing altogether (and I’ve proven over and over again on this blog and on our podcast that math is not exactly my forte). So let’s tread into this thing lightly, and I’ll show you the two reasons why the Big 12 is already dead and will not be revived.1. A network is, uh, probably not a great ideaPeople smarter (and certainly more powerful) than me seem to think the only way forward for what everyone thinks is the fifth-best conference in the country is a network, some expansion and a conference title game. OU President David Boren has been destroying that drum for the last few weeks. Heck, even Mike Gundy has said it.[1. I’m not totally sure why this is the case, I suppose. What’s wrong with the Big 12 as it is?]Boren took another step forward on Thursday.“If you’re not going to have a network, you don’t need to have an expansion,” David Boren said on Thursday.[1. Of course this is a little bit of a chicken or the egg argument.] So we can start there with the future of the Big 12. A network.And a network, which sounds great because SEC! SEC! (right?) might not actually be a great idea. In fact, starting it in 2016 when ESPN feels the need to tell people to watch games on their physical televisions, is almost definitely not a great idea.Read this from Jake Trotter on the failure of the Pac-12 Network. The Pac-12 thought it could build and distribute its own content. It has not gone well.Without a TV giant like Fox or ESPN backing it, the Pac-12 has struggled to gain traction in distribution. The Pac-12 remains unable to strike a deal with DirecTV, which has left it with only 12 million subscribers, according to the San Jose Mercury News, approximately one-fifth the total of the Big Ten and SEC networks.The SEC Network on the other hand is printing money. But even then, it’s not distributing that much more to its schools (a little under $7M … albeit early on in the network’s life) than OU, WVU and others are currently earning with their third tier rights (a little over $6M).And here’s the rub. If you need a network to distribute your content — and the Pac-12’s results scream that you do indeed need this — who are you going to get? ESPN? Is ESPN really going to dive headfirst into something like this for the Big 12 when the Longhorn Network (featuring the Big 12’s flagship team) has been an unmitigated disaster? It’s true that the SEC Network has been a hit (and ESPN owns that network in full), but if Texas is the trailer for the Big 12, then ESPN does not want to see that movie.Maybe Fox would take this on. Maybe not. But BYU, UConn, Memphis and Colorado State (?!) will definitely not be the salve for the Longhorn Network’s great grievances. Even for a company in Fox that is seemingly desperate for programming.Which means you probably have to do it on your own. And again, the Pac-12 is telling me you do not under any circumstances want to do this on your own.  2. Texas won’t let it happen anywayWhich leads us to the other problem. Namely, why in the world would Texas let this happen? “You’ve got to make Texas financially whole,” Boren said on Thursday. “You can’t expect them to give up $15 million.”Hope he didn’t go to expensive business school for these insights. And again, if the SEC Network is doling out less than half of that (again, early on … but still) then why would Texas risk its guaranteed $15M a year to maybe make 2/3 of that and in doing so give more exposure to the rest of the schools in the conference? That would be, uh, not smart.Plus it’s not like if the Big 12 folds Texas won’t have options. It will have all the options. It holds all the cards right now and Boren (and everyone else) knows it.So it was a move the Big 12 made six years ago to let Texas have its own network that will, ironically, probably be one of the forks in the back of this league.So the question in the present moment (if you believe I’m right) is … now what? Do you play out the string and wait until the mid 2020s when the media deals with Fox and ESPN run out to hook up with another, more powerful conference? Do you bail right now and try to lawyer yourself out of the fact that you would owe the Big 12 your media rights (something that might not be as difficult as it seems)?Nobody really knows, but I’m confident that Oklahoma State’s political and geographic ties to Oklahoma (not to mention its high quality athletic department that generates $95M a year) will set it up nicely for a future in a big boy league.Just where we will watch that play out, nobody knows. But I’m pretty certain it’s not going to be on a Big 12 Network. And if it is, then I hope Boren knows of a deep well of money to subsidize the thing.If you’re looking for the comments section, it has moved to our forum, The Chamber. You can go there to comment and holler about these articles, specifically in these threads. You can register for a free account right here and will need one to comment.If you’re wondering why we decided to do this, we wrote about that here. Thank you and cheers!last_img