Conference Realignment: Big 12 expansion no cause for celebration

We’ve all faced no-win situations in life.  And just because we made a decision that was the lesser of two evils, we don’t celebrate the outcomes that are less than ideal.  That’s the situation that the Big 12 finds itself in this week as it has officially added Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, and BYU to the fold.

Though adding those programs to the conference might have been the best the Big 12 could have hoped to do, it doesn’t change the fact that this conference is far worse off now than it was two months ago.

Of course, all the powers that be in the conference did their best to put on a brave face Friday when the four new members were officially voted in.  In a Tweet, Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt said, “This move strengthens an already powerful conference, and will only enhance the perception of our programs at Texas Tech.”

That’s the biggest line of nonsense Hocutt has delivered in his tenure at Tech.  Trying to suggest that this move strengthens the conference and enhances its perception is farcical.

You don’t enhance your perception when you lose two of the nation’s most prestigious programs in Texas and Oklahoma and replace them with four programs that were not in another Power 5 conference and not take a hit in the way you are viewed.

Saying that the Big 12 “got better today” as the official Texas Tech athletic department Twitter account said on Friday is nonsense.  It’s akin to saying that a 3rd-degree burn victim got better because some of the skin on the back of his knee grew back.  In the end, he remains horribly disfigured and nearly unrecognizable and that’s similar to the reality that the Big 12 faces.

Sure, in the short term, this conference will remain a Power 5 league for as long as Texas and Oklahoma remain in the fold, which seems to be until the end of the 2025 academic year.  For that period of time, the money coming into the league from its current media rights deal will be sizeable enough for this league to keep considering itself a major player in the NCAA landscape.

But should the league remain intact after that, it will cease to be viewed as a legitimate power broker, especially in college football, the sport around which everything revolves.  It will be almost a guarantee that the league’s next media rights contract will represent a substantial decrease in revenue for the member schools and that will put the Big 12 members in a serious hole when trying to compete with the schools in the four major conferences.

What’s more, this move could be just a temporary stopgap measure.  After all, the Big 12 has decided not to pursue a renegotiation of its grant of rights agreement, a sign that this conference remains on shaky ground.

“For now, those conversations, that dialogue has been put on pause until we have more clarity, a better understanding of what the Big 12 is going to be, the number of institutions,” Baylor AD Mack Rhoades told  “But certainly here in the near future, I think we’ll begin to reengage.”

In other words, the Big 12 member institutions are leaving themselves a potential out should better options arise in 2025.  That wasn’t going to be the case when OU and UT were still believed to be in the conference’s long-term plans as it was rumored that the league had already begun to work on its next grant of rights deal.

If the Big 12 were truly in a better place and if everyone was really happy with the state of the league with the four newcomers now in place, the conference would already be seeking to make deals with media partners.  But instead, this league’s eight holdover members are holding off on that in hopes that a better option arises such as invites to other Power 5 leagues.

So don’t buy the rhetoric from those in power.  This Big 12 expansion is akin to putting new curtains up in a house that’s been condemned.

BYU, Cincy, Houston, and UCF add no juice to the situation and do not heal anything that was already plaguing this conference.  Sure, the Big 12 did the best it could given the current climate of the NCAA landscape but in the end, making chicken salad out of chicken excrement is nothing to be happy about.  After all, no one really likes chicken salad anyway.