Przybylo: Big 12 piecing itself together

Is the Big 12 getting it right? No idea, but it is finally united.

So those were not some lame, mundane summer meetings conducted by the Big 12 last week in Irving, Texas, huh?

There were so many intriguing developments, you really do need to take a minute to step back and examine it all.

Was it 100 percent on the money? No, doesn’t feel that way, but at least the conference looks like it might have an idea of where it wants to head going forward.

What we saw late last week was a unified conference, perhaps for the first time in a long time where it looked like all 10-member schools were on the same page in the same book and ready to hit the ground running.

Running for what? That remains to be seen. A lot of the moves and decisions seem to be puzzling and maybe confusing and maybe even disappointing, but at least they’re all in agreement.

With Oklahoma president David Boren essentially saying there is no room for a traditional conference network in today’s marketplace, very curious to see how this affects any expansion talk from now on.

A big part of expansion for potential schools was stuff like TV markets, but if those don’t matter, feels like that narrows the field a bit. So much that maybe you can even look at just football-heavy schools and be content with a BYU or Boise State.

Because brand name matters. Fan base is going to matter. If the Big 12 does decide to do a network, it’s going to be through some non-traditional means. Live streaming is only getting more popular and more creative so that will certainly be an avenue worth watching in the future.

The same schools are there. Memphis? Cincinnati? Central Florida? Houston? Colorado State? BYU? Connecticut? Nothing has really changed in that regard.

But really the talk last week seem to put the brakes on expansion and whether or not it’s warranted. There were a couple of things Boren said that stood out, namely saying how the conference is not in a time of crisis.

The revenue numbers back up that statement. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Boren announced the conference made $304 million in revenue last year, meaning $30.4 million per school. That puts the Big 12 at No. 3 in the Power 5 conference rankings, ahead of ACC and Pac-12 and trailing the SEC and the Big Ten.

That’s not bad, especially when you factor in the other major development from last week which is the return of a conference championship game in 2017.

There are all sorts of questions going forward about how this will work, but the words competitive and financial advantage were used to describe why it’s not a luxury but a necessity for the Big 12 to return to having a championship game.

The 13th data point was brought up once again as this will give the Big 12 schools a 13th game for its two top-tier members playing for the title. It was revealed in their studies that this helps chances of making the college football playoff by approximately 15 percent in a best-case scenario.

Financially, it was discussed a championship game brings in nearly $30 million. The numbers make sense even if the format doesn’t quite fit.

Like really, the format is the head-scratcher right now. What we do know is there will be a 2017 conference championship game and the games will alternate between being broadcast on FOX and ESPN.

Here’s what we don’t know:

*Will there be two five-team divisions? Or just one 10-team group with the top two schools playing each other in the end?

*Will OU and Texas be in the same division or opposite ones? If so, does that take away from the annual Red River Showdown if the teams meet again in December? If they’re in the same division, how do you balance it out competitively enough so you don’t run into a Big 12 South being so greater than North like had in the past?

*Where will the game be played? Will the No. 1 seed get a chance to host another home game? Will it be at a neutral site? Rotating neutral site?

*What’s the point of divisions if everybody plays everybody anyway? Rematches are fairly common in conference championship games in the other Power 5, but with the Big 12 and with the way things are right now, you’re guaranteed a rematch so why bother with divisions?

*What will this do with scheduling? Boren and Bowlsby both brought up it is “not optimal” to have a scenario where two schools are playing each other in back-to-back weeks like what would have happened last year between OU and Oklahoma State. Do you frontload the first part of conference schedule? Can you? Aren’t you really just guessing who will be the most competitive? Everybody assumed Baylor vs. TCU would be the de facto conference championship game last year, and it turned out to be OU and OSU. You never really know.

So yea, there are a lot of questions left to be answered. But at least everybody is working together. The divorce that seemed imminent now seems to be out the door. Boren closed things out by saying the conference will long outlive himself. The demise of the Big 12 doesn’t seem to be on the way, but is success just around the corner?


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories