If Bob Bowlsby is buying what Susan Herbst is selling, he’s certainly a cautious consumer. UConnmade its pitch in early September, and still no invite for the Huskies.
In fairness to the Huskies, no one has gotten an invite to join the Big 12 yet – and according to a CBS Sports article on Tuesday, it’s becoming increasingly likely that Bowlsby and the Big 12 stand pat and opt to not expand at all this year.
Dennis Dodd’s article focused on the Big 12 not extending its “grant of rights.” The conference likely won’t extend its grant of rights, mostly because 2025 (the expiration of the conference’s TV deals with ESPN and Fox) is a long ways away and a lot can change in that time. The conference also doesn’t want to anger its cash cows – Oklahoma and Texas. Those two schools want to keep their options open down the road.
Meanwhile, ESPN and Fox aren’t exactly clamoring for the Big 12 to expand. The two networks would have to “pay pro rata – current equal value revenue – to any new teams entering the league,” according to CBS.
“It’s plausible [that ESPN and Fox actually pay the Big 12 to not expand],” Bowlsby told CBS. “It’s among a whole wide range, array of possibilities. I suppose that’s one possibility. Nobody really enjoys paying more for what they already own.”
Make no mistake – ESPN, Fox and the Big 12 are in the driver’s seat here. If UConn or BYU were to get the invite from the Big 12, there would surely be major cash stipulations and new contracts to be worked out. Essentially, UConn and BYU would have to pay up, big-time, just to play in the conference. There’s no way the TV networks or the Big 12 would bend over for those two schools. It would absolutely be the other way around.
The article also now lists Houston as a favorite to get in to the conference, if the Big 12 actually does opt to expand. Certainly their No. 6 national ranking looks great right now and they embarrassed their expansion competition, UConn, last Thursday night on National TV. But Bowlsby and the powers that be have to know that the Cougars might be a flash in the pan. The football team finished fourth in the American conference in 2013 and 2014 and was good but not great in the old Conference USA. There’s just not enough of a track record here to suggest the Big 12 is ga-ga over Houston either, and it’s a guarantee that marquee, more-proven college footballschools will go after head coach Tom Herman this winter.