Berry Tramel

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Big 12 expansion: Answering questions after DeLoss Dodds speaks

by Berry Tramel Published: February 9, 2012

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds spoke at the Lufkin, Texas, chamber of commerce meeting last Friday and talked a little about conference realignment.

Dodds actually said a lot of interesting stuff. You can read the story here. Here’s the part about Big 12 expansion: “Dodds also mentioned that future Big 12 expansion could target Louisville and Brigham Young University. Dodds said that his personal choice would be Notre Dame, and that he is working hard to garner that addition.”

Like I said, interesting. I got an email from a Brigham Young graduate – who lives in Michigan, of all places – who asked a series of excellent questions. I thought I would try to answer them.

Are talks starting back up in earnest between BYU and the Big 12, or is this just idle banter by Dodds?

My guess is idle banter. I don’t sense much momentum for BYU. I think the addition of West Virginia makes the Big 12 much more likely to look East than West.

If talks are heating up, is there a feeling towards how serious the Big 12 and BYU are feeling, respectively, about each other?

The question of BYU’s seriousness is interesting. I was a big proponent of BYU last summer, but then I heard from all kinds of BYU people about how pleased the Cougars are with independence and how they wouldn’t join the Big 12 unless the terms were just right. I think that makes BYU a longshot. I think the Big 12 enjoyed the jubilation we saw in Fort Worth and Morgantown over TCU and West Virginia joining the conference. I don’t think the Big 12 wants someone who is lukewarm about the conference.

Will a new commissioner make much of a difference in expansion plans or are the schools going to take the lead on that decision?

Schools. The Big 12 – and the Big Eight before it – always has been a weak-commissioner conference. I don’t mean they’ve hired weak men, I mean the office is weak. In the Big Ten and the SEC and now the Pac-12, the commissioners rule with a great deal of power. That’s not been the case in the Big 12 or the Big Eight for at least 30 years and maybe before that. So I don’t think a new commissioner will have a huge impact on expansion decisions. Rather than hiring a commissioner to tell the Big 12 what to do, I think it’s more likely the Big 12 tells prospective candidates what it wants, then hires someone who expresses the ability to get the job done.

What is the timing on a new Big XII media deal?

The Big 12 last summer forged the 13-year deal with Fox Sports that will pay about $90 million a year. The Big 12′s contract with ABC/ESPN for over-air telecasts goes into summer 2016 and pays about $65 million a year. But that could be renegotiated before 2016.

Are the networks pushing for 12 (or more) teams and a conference championship?

Great question on the networks. I don’t know. But my guess is that the networks are focused not so much on how many, but who? I know that the networks were the champions of West Virginia’s addition. West Virginia brought an excellent profile to Big 12 football telecasts. So anyone of that stature would be enticing to the networks. Someone like BYU, probably yes. Someone like Louisville, probably no.

Are Oklahoma and Texas (or other schools) fighting that push for 12 and a conference title game?

Somewhat. Texas, for example, does not want a title game. And the Longhorns aren’t the only ones. OU, I would say, is either way on the title game but is more gung-ho about expansion. OSU, probably in the same boat. I think the Old North Three (KU, K-State, Iowa State) would like to get back to the 12-team format, since their teams would have a better shot at a Big 12 championship under that scenario.

Is media pressure the only way the Big XII goes to 12 (or more) teams?

No. Heck no. I mean, Texas is probably the school least excited about expansion, but as Dodds himself said, there are potential targets out there.

Does Dodds think there realistically is a chance to pry away Notre Dame from the Big East now that the Big East seems to be on the ropes a bit or at least seems to be watering down their non-football sports a bit?

Sounds like it. But people at OU are pessimistic that Notre Dame would do something. I think Notre Dame as a full-fledged member has no chance. Notre Dame as an auxiliary member, fully functional in all sports except football, with a scheduling agreement for football? Maybe that would have a chance if the Big East continues to flounder. Notre Dame’s teams need a place that makes a little sense. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Would Notre Dame to the Big 12 kill BYU’s shot?

Wouldn’t help. Wouldn’t help at all. If somehow Notre Dame came aboard, and the Big 12 added another school, I would think the eastward trend would hold. If you’ve got Notre Dame and Louisville and West Virginia, then all of a sudden the disconnect with Middle America isn’t so severe.

If BYU were to go to the Big 12, would there be times that BYU fans would be unable to view the games (or have to purchase a premium regional sports pack)? If so how often?

No. Every football game would be available on one of the Big 12 networks (ABC, ESPN, Fox, etc.) or would be free for BYU to telecast however it sees fit, which I assume would be BYUTV. In basketball, same way.

Is BYUTV (or BYU’s ESPN deal for that matter) problematic because it looks a lot like the Longhorn Network?

BYUTV is no problem at all. In fact, that probably would help the transition, because the Big 12 has a school with something similar. But the BYU/ESPN deal would have to go the way of the wind for the Cougars to be admitted to the conference. The Big 12 would not accept BYU’s ESPN deal. BYU’s games would be served up via the Big 12 contracts, unless it’s one of the rumdum games that the networks don’t want. BYU could keep one (or conceivably two) game for itself to distribute, but it would have to be an undesirable game to the networks.

Would BYU’s uniqueness/idiosyncrasies make for a difficult relationship in the Big 12 long term?

Sounds like it to me. People in the Mountain West have horror stories about dealing with BYU.

 

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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