It’s the offseason, and the flurry of news college football fans generally deal with has slowed to a trickle. The league commissioners need something to complain about, so Big 12 expansion seems to be the issue of the day. The question is, should the league increase its numbers? Logically, it looks like expansion would be a disadvantage to the Big 12.
The league won the right to hold a conference championship game without having to expand, so adding teams would do nothing but change the identity of the conference. BYU, for example, has little in common with other members of the conference. Cincinnati, another possible candidate, would offer a lucrative media market and an easier commute for outlier West Virginia, but the Bearcats’ culture and history bears little resemblance to other members. Further expansion also means fewer games with the league’s more “traditional” opponents in the Big 10. Yes, this type of argument is more from an emotional standpoint than from a logical one, but Big 12 fans—particularly those in Texas—have a passion for football that goes beyond all sense or reason.
Money talks, and the bottom line is that expanding the league would not increase its revenue. If you compare the revenues of the Big 12 with those of the SEC, then the league falls woefully short. The financial gap between the league and the SEC was about $9 million. If the league expands, it means that each university would receive less money as the share would have to be divided between two or more schools. Also, a smaller conference means that some of the smaller schools get national exposure which can only help the league in recruitment efforts moving forward.
In addition, the Longhorn Network, Texas’ subscription-based network, has been a financial failure, losing some $48 million. It is possible that ESPN might be willing to encompass the LHN into a Big 12 network, but that would mean Texas’ egos would need to be placated. It would also mean a loss of money for Texas, as the university stands to make about $15 million per year from the network. The instability of the cable television industry and ESPN’s financial woes indicate that a conference network seems unlikely. On the other hand, a title game could bring in more than $20 million per year and would preclude the need for expansion.
The lack of a title game hurt them in the first year of the CFP, but Oklahoma managed a berth in 2015, even with a loss. Ultimately, forcing the Big 12 to expand will not only damage the league, it may cause a domino effect among other conferences. Leave the Big 12 as it is, y’all. Inconsistency is why college football is great—if we wanted sports to be fair we could watch a Pop Warner game and give out trophies to everyone.
Right now, the Big 12 has a myriad of talented teams, including CFP contender Oklahoma, not to mention Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. The Big 12 doesn’t need your congeniality award—they are doing just fine.