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Big 'No' From Big 12: Conference Won't Expand, Membership Stays At 10

University of Oklahoma president David Boren (left) speaks as Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby looks on during a news conference after The Big 12 Conference meeting in Grapevine, Texas, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.
LM Otero
University of Oklahoma president David Boren (left) speaks as Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby looks on during a news conference after The Big 12 Conference meeting in Grapevine, Texas, Monday.

After months of speculation and discussion, the Big 12 Conference decided against expansion. The announcement came after Monday’s six-hour meeting with the conference's university presidents and the commissioner.

University of Oklahoma president David Boren is the chairman of the conference's board of directors, and he said the decision was unanimous. 

"We take great pride in the fact that we have had great success nationally,” Boren said during a news conference. “We take pride in the fact that our per capita distribution is certainly higher than it's ever been before in the Big 12. We don't feel a sense of urgency to expand just for expansion's sake."

The Big 12 paid out just over $30 million to each of its members this year, a record amount and third most among Power Five conferences.

But long-term projections have the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference pulling away in the revenue race from the Big 12, Pac-12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference in the coming years. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said figuring new ways to generate more is one of the conference's top priorities. 

"While we are somewhat behind now, we're going to do everything we can not to have that delta grow,” Bowlsby said. “It's going to force us to be smarter and better and more innovative, to look at new distribution processes and systems and ways to monetize those things."

The 10 schools that currently make up the Big 12 are bound together by a deal committing their television rights to the conference through the 2024-2025 school year. Under the terms of that deal, Fox and ESPN would have to pay the conference up to $25 million per year for each new member, ESPN’s Jake Trotter reports:

Big 12 leaders held video interviews with almost 20 candidates, then interviewed officials from Air Force, BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Colorado State, UConn, Houston, Rice, South Florida, SMU and Tulane in person in Dallas in September. After Monday's decision, Bowlsby called the leaders of each candidate to deliver the news personally. "The decision really didn't have very much to do with the individual elements of those institutions," Bowlsby said. "They all have their strengths and weaknesses, obviously, as all of our members do. But this was really about defense of our model."

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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