Could West Virginia Get A More Geographically-Based Partner As Early As 2017?

The Big 12 could expand as early as the 2017 season, according to an announcement made Tuesday by commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Oklahoma President David Boren.

The two provided generalizations on the plan in a teleconference, with the Big 12 making the move just days after the ACC announced the formation of its own network. Whether the two were related remains unknown. What doesn't is that the Big 12 intends to move rapidly, but with due diligence, just as they did in forming a championship game for the same 2017 season.

"We also had a discussion of the future makeup of the conference going forward -- the entire structural issues for the conference, how to make the conference stronger," Boren said. "And a number of universities, as you well know, have contacted the Big 12 to express interest in our conference. And the board today directed the commissioner to actively evaluate their interests and to report back those evaluations which he will make back to the board at a future board meeting. So there was continued interest expressed and expansion and the direction to the commissioner, I think, reflects that and we will look forward to receiving back from him the information that he gathers as he evaluates the interests of all of those who have contacted us, the other universities.

"We have focused on what expansion of the conference might mean in the near term to increasing and improving the chances just as we did with the championship game for having our teams seriously considered in terms of national competition. And we've also focused on our own ability through the contracts that we already have to determine what kind of benefits expansion, financial benefits expansion might bring to the conference. So we're looking at it not so much at this point in time in connection with the possibility of creating a Big 12 linear network, although we continue to express our interest in possible digital platforms as well and a possible digital arrangement for broadcasting certain of our sports and will continue to explore that with all of our traditional partners and with others as well. But we decided to look at the impact that an expansion of either two or four teams might have on the conference in these other areas, both to our financial -- whether it be to our financial advantage to do so; would it be to our advantage, competitive advantage in terms of increasing even further beyond what we've already just done with the championship game, to make sure that our teams are fully considered in national competition."

The Big 12 will likely add at least two and as many as four new teams. That would take the conference membership to either 12 or 14 teams, respectively. The league will distribute more than $30 million to each member school in revenues this season, a number which is expected to increase with the title game, though by how much remains to be seen with the potential addition of new members.

"We intend to be active very soon," Bowlsby said. "We have been contacted by a number of institutions, and my guess is that after this news breaks we'll be contacted by them again. There likely will be a two-stage process of some sort that will involve some preliminary work, and then a secondary process as well that gets into a little more of a -- perhaps even a fact-finding but also perhaps even a negotiation stage. So we think that, like the championship game, our board evaluated the data, listened to our consultants, had a good, frank, forthright conversation among themselves and saw the path forward clearly and have taken steps. And so we now need to go away from this meeting and think about it from a logistical standpoint and put a plan together."

Whether West Virginia would truly benefit - and exactly how much - from a member school which is closer geographically is a question as the process continues. The Big 12 had given little indication of its leanings, but schools such as BYU, Boise State, Cincinnati, Memphis, Houston, UConn, UCF and South Florida have been mentioned in the media.

"If we are to expand, we want to find the strongest possible partners for expansion," Boren added. "And we talk about strong partners. We're not talking about just athletic partners, which of course that's very important; what is the fan base; what is the TV following, the broadcast following of these teams. But also what are the academic standards of these schools, what reputations do these schools have as institutions of integrity and shared values with us."

The entire transcript can be viewed here, including comments on the Baylor investigation.


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