With the departure of Texas and Oklahoma, both of whom are expected to join the SEC, the remaining eight Big 12 schools are in limbo. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby would certainly like to hold the line, continue to collect on a big media rights deal that lasts through the end of the 2024-25 academic year, but there will be significant pressure on the other schools to look into their options.
We’ve heard plenty of rumors about other potential fallout for the Big 12. Kansas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State have all reportedly had calls with the Big Ten, while West Virginia has its eyes on the ACC. The most shocking rumors center on the AAC, of all leagues.
The AAC currently sits at 11 members. It has consistently been the best “Group of Five” league, and lets everyone in earshot know that it considers itself the sixth “Power Conference.” According to CBS Sports‘ Dennis Dodd, they could try and close that gap even further, and bring on all eight remaining Big 12 members.
The report comes on the heels of Bowlsby’s public accusation that ESPN is trying to aid the AAC in poaching from the Big 12. Blowing up the Big 12 would get ESPN out of having to pay those rights deals through June 2025, and could land Oklahoma and Texas in the SEC sooner than the 2025 football season.
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 29, 2021
Bowlsby would certainly rather flip things on the AAC, and try to poach some of its best members like UCF, Cincinnati, and Memphis. Those schools, and numerous others, applied for Big 12 membership a few years ago, but all applicants wound up being rejected, as the league opted to stay at 10 teams. That may have been an error on the Big 12’s part, in retrospect, as adding schools could have allowed the league to renegotiate a longer rights deal which, today, may make leaving more untenable for Oklahoma and Texas.
From Dodd’s report:
“Oklahoma and Texas are going to do everything they can to get out of the grant of rights and get out of the bylaw stipulations. It’s going to be a long process,” Bowlsby told CBS Sports.
“The eight remaining schools are dealing with a lot,” Bowlsby told CBS Sports. “They’re coming off a COVID year. They’re coming off a rough year on ticket sales. … If we stay together, I think we’ll have some options [in realignment].”
This could certainly go either way, but it may be nearly impossible if the Big Ten, ACC, or Pac-12 actually come calling for some of the remaining schools. That long term money and stability would be hard to pass up.