Big 12 News

Big 12 Focused on 16 Members, Not Expansion For Now

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LAS VEGAS — If it’s Big 12 football media days then there are questions about expansion, and the league’s first visit to Sin City was no exception.

Commissioner Brett Yormark fielded a few questions about expansion during his “state of the conference” speech with media on Tuesday, the official kickoff of the two-day event at Allegiant Stadium.

 

On the surface, nothing appears imminent. With eight new members joining the league and two members leaving the league in the past 12 months, Yormark has said on various occasions that he’s looking forward to moving ahead with the 16 members the league now has.

In fact, he told Heartland College Sports’ Pete Mundo during a league-wide call in May that the league was not actively seeking new membership. He reiterated that, for now, he’s focused on the current membership.

“We’re focused on 16,” Yormark said. “We’re focused on getting this right, and I’m really excited about our future as a 16 team league.”

But, Yormark, now two years into the job and as forward thinking as any commissioner in college sports, isn’t ruling anything out. But he knows this league has grown at a fast rate.

“My wife told me the other day, ‘When you took the job, you had 10 schools and now you have 16 and that’s in this very short period of time, in less than 24 months,” Yormark said. “So we’ve got to make sure that as a collective group, we’re reaching our potential.”

It’s clear Yormark is open to anything under the right circumstances. Right now, he isn’t driving the Big 12 toward any particular group, or number, of schools.

 

Whether the Big 12 expands or not will likely be determined by what happens in the ACC, where both Florida State and Clemson are suing the ACC over various issues, including full access to that league’s grant of rights and television deal with ESPN, which go through 2036.

Florida State just won the right to view an unredacted version of the GOR on Monday.

It’s possible the lawsuit could lead to both schools leaving for other conferences, opening the door for other ACC schools to do the same. But he has no “number” of members in mind.

“So have really thought about what’s the right number?,” Yormark said. “I don’t know if it’s really about a number. I think it’s about the right fit. It’s about the value that a potential school might or might not bring to the conference.”

This imbroglio comes after the implosion of the Pac-12, as its leadership was unable to acquire a satisfactory media deal after USC and UCLA announced they were leaving for the Big Ten. After that, eight other members left for other conferences. Oregon State and Washington State are the only remaining members of the Pac-12 and have the rights to the league’s name and history.

Expansion and contraction have been a part of the Big 12’s landscape for more than a decade as the Big 12 swells to 16 members for all sports for the first time this year. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah join the league officially at the beginning of August.

 

Those four schools join a year after BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston joined the conference. They were voted in as members in 2021 under then-commissioner Bob Bowlsby and after Oklahoma and Texas announced they were leaving the Big 12 after the 2024-25 athletic year, which is the end of the current media deal.

The Big 12, Oklahoma and Texas came to terms on a buyout that allowed both to exit a year early and each joined the SEC on July 1.

Before that, the league lost four members that were part of the Big 12 when it formed for the 1996-97 athletic season — Colorado (Pac-12), Missouri (SEC),Nebraska (Big Ten) and Texas A&M (SEC). When the four schools exited in 2011 and 2012, TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012.

Even the conference’s formation was a merger, as the Big Eight Conference merged with four Southwest Conference schools — Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech — for the 1996-97 athletic year, ending the SWC for good.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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