SOURCES: BIG 12 MOVING TOWARD EXPANSION

Sources close to the situation tell HornsDigest the Big 12 is moving from evaluating toward expansion.

"There's definitely movement," one source close to the situation told HornsDigest. "And the movement is all in the direction of expansion."

As I've reported, Cincinnati, Houston and BYU have been the most talked-about expansion candidates  - almost from the moment the Big 12 Board of Directors voted to "actively evaluate" two to four expansion candidates on July 19.

And it appears Memphis may be emerging as the fourth, sources said - if eight votes on the 10-member Big 12 board of presidents and chancellors are indeed there to grow by four. And that's a big if.

FedEx has said it would sponsor the Big 12's new football title game (beginning in 2017), if Memphis is added to the Big 12.

One source put the odds of the B12 adding four at "60-40" over the possibility of adding two. 

I'm told Texas officials are reluctant to consider adding more than two full members.

I was also told Texas was unlikely to agree to an extension of the league's Tier 1 & 2 TV rights and grant of rights (which grant a school's TV rights back to the conference) beyond their current 2025 expiration.

Those in the conference hungry for more TV revenue want four more schools - preferably four full members, sources said. Adding four, full-member schools would trigger a contractual obligation in the league's TV contracts requiring ESPN and Fox to pay the Big 12 an additional $80 million to $100 million per year for each of the next eight years, sources told HD.

If the majority of the Big 12 presidents and chancellors want four - and there's no extension of TV rights/GOR - then Texas officials might be willing to go along, sources told HD. If an extension of TV rights/GOR are mandated by TV partners for adding two or four, everything could fall apart, sources said.

If no rights extensions are required and Texas helps UH get into the Big 12, Houston lawmakers are expected to green light the purchase of 300 acres in Houston by Texas chancellor William McRaven for an expansion of UT's presence in the nation's fourth-largest city.

And the league's No. 1 reason for expansion -  the additional $640 million to $800 million in TV revenue the next eight years - would help keep the Big 12's gap in TV revenue behind the Big Ten and SEC from widening, sources said.

After the next eight years of cashing in by the Big 12, who knows if the league would still exist? If expansion had proved to be a bust when Tier 1 & 2 TV deals are up for renegotiation in 2024, Texas, Oklahoma and others in the Big 12 with Power 5 conference options could very well bolt.

BYU is independent and has a TV deal with ESPN, making the Cougs somewhat nimble in a move to the B12. The question has been - as a full-time member? Or football only - because of BYU's No-Sunday Rule? (BYU has never competed on a Sunday, because the school's strict Mormon faith calls for a focus on worship on Sundays.)

I'm told it's the B12 board's first preference to admit full-time members, but that the board might settle for one or two football-only members among four.

Houston, Cincinnati and Memphis are part of the American Athletic Conference, which requires 27 months notice and a $10 million exit fee. An earlier departure would require a larger exit fee, per AAC officials. 

 Rob Sellers of Scout's Houston site CougarDigest reported, "The Cougars have begun negotiations, to some degree, on their departure from the AAC."

Things may be starting to come into focus on the Big 12's next step - which, barring an attempt to extend TV rights and grant of rights agreements - appears to be growth. 

More soon.

Chip Brown covers Texas, the Big 12 and college football for Scout at HornsDigest.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ChipBrownHD.

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