John E. Hoover: Big 12 meetings expected to be mostly quiet
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Sunday, May 27, 2012
5/27/12 at 5:28 AM
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Original Print Headline: Big 12 meetings expected to be mostly quiet
There may be no hot-button topics resolved at this week's Big 12 Conference spring meetings.
Expansion? No way. Details on the Big 12/SEC bowl game announced last week? Not a chance. A firm vote on a college football playoff structure? Nope.
Will the league at least make a splash by announcing its new blockbuster television contract with ESPN?
Even that seems unlikely.
A Big 12 source told the Tulsa World that minor details of the league's impending deal with ESPN - a nine-year, $1.3 billion extension of the current arrangement - have yet to be agreed upon. The source also said there were "no specifics in this one that are different than any other television contract" the league has had, meaning nothing is actually holding up the deal, even though it was first reported by the Sports Business Daily more than two months ago.
One theory was that an intentional delay would allow the league to make headlines from its annual meetings. But that's not the case, the source said, because networks need to sell advertising packages, and advertisers need to know what they're buying - all as soon as possible.
Another theory for the delay was that ESPN is reluctant to sign anything without knowing whether the league would remain at 10 members, or expand to 11 or 12 - especially meaningful with all the recent talk about Florida State wanting to explore a move to the Big 12.
But that theory, the source said, was "a million miles off base" because in all the major conference television contracts executed in the past 4-5 years, language has been added to include pro-rata increases for each school in the event of expansion.
In other words, if Big 12 members are scheduled to receive an annual average of $20 million each (as has been widely reported), they'll still get at least that $20 million whether the league is at 10 schools or 11 or 12.
That said, a marketable football property like Florida State, or maybe Miami or Notre Dame, might be incentive for television partners to want to pay more.
"TV contracts take time to iron out bugs," the source said. "Especially very complicated ones."
As for expansion, whether it's Florida State or Clemson or Miami or Notre Dame, don't look for anything soon. Acting commissioner Chuck Neinas was quoted in Saturday's Dallas Morning News saying that losing four members and gaining two in a span of less than two years has given Big 12 membership reason to pause.
"Bigger is not necessarily better," he told the Morning News. Getting comfortable with the new membership and building on that, he said, should be the current agenda, and "then down the road maybe think of expansion."
Of course, Neinas has less than a month left on the job. New commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who will preside over this week's meetings in Kansas City, may have different ideas.
"Expansion will be an ongoing consideration for us," Bowlsby said at his introductory press conference. "... I think, though, as you consider expansion, it has to be expansion that has, as its roots, the enhancement of the league."
The World's Big 12 source said conference realignment and expansion sometimes can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, that fans can shotgun theories on sports talk radio and post crackpot ideas on Internet message boards, which are then picked up by influential boosters, which are then emailed to members of boards of trustees, whose quotes are then posted worldwide and taken as fact even though school presidents and athletic directors say they're not true.
"These things are goofy," the source said.
"Everybody wants to talk in absolutes, and there are no absolutes. ... The absolute is that the Big 12 is probably not going to expand unless there's a compelling reason to do so."
The most significant discussion from Big 12 spring meetings this week likely will involve the college football playoff structure, a discussion initiated last month by Bowl Championship Series leadership and continued in recent weeks at spring meetings in the Pac-12 Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten Conference.
Neinas told the Tulsa World last month that Big 12 presidents and athletic directors "seem to favor some type of a four-team arrangement."
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione is a member of the BCS' athletic directors advisory committee. He told the World recently the complexities of such a change shouldn't be underestimated.
"It doesn't matter at this point what model anyone prefers," Castiglione said, "we just have to be sure the collaborative approach deciding the model has been well vetted, so whatever consequences develop will have been anticipated."
The 2014-15 bowl game announced last week between the Big 12 and SEC - it has a working title of "Champions Bowl," even though it almost never will feature conference champions - will be talked about this week, too, although it's way too early to decide details, such as where the game will be played.
The Big 12 (Wednesday through Friday) and SEC (Tuesday through Friday) meet almost simultaneously this week, and it's a sure bet executive decisions will be made in Kansas City and Destin, Fla., that end up shaping college athletics for decades to come.
Even if there are no boldfaced headlines printed this week.