After months of speculation, the Big 12 has officially spoken. There will be no expansion, and no talks of expansion for the near future. Sport Illustrated’s Pete Thamel was the first to report the news, which was later confirmed by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Oklahoma president David Boren at the Big 12 Board of Directors press conference Monday evening.
“We decided after thorough discussion that we would remain at 10 members…We had no discussion of individual schools,” Boren said at the press conference. “The decision was unanimous [to not expand].”
UConn president Susan Herbst, athletic director David Benedict and Board of Director’s chairman Larry McHugh all released statements following the conference’s decision.
“The announcement by the Big 12 Conference against expansion is not unexpected and is indicative of the volatile world of college athletics administration,” Herbst said. “While I am sure many in our community are nervous about what this means for our future, I am confident that we have put our best foot forward with considerable effort to demonstrate how we currently operate our university and athletics programs at a ‘Power 5’ level and will continue to do so.”
UConn also released all documents pertaining to their pitch to the Big 12, which included a letter from governor Dannel Malloy, a travel map and information on UConn’s media markets among other materials.
The documents made public by UConn stressed the university’s location to major media markets such as New York City, Boston and Hartford/New Haven, as well as its proximity to ESPN. The included travel map highlighting travel times by charter plane from each member school to Bradley International Airport. Governor Malloy’s letter stressed the state’s financial commitment to the university and statewide support of UConn’s athletic teams.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the documents also show that UConn was willing to accept a football-only membership to the Big 12 if full-fledged membership was not an option. If the Huskies were able to join the Big 12 as a football-only member, it would have looked to place its other sports, such as basketball, in the Big East.
For now, the Big 12’s decision not to expand leaves the Huskies as members of the American Athletic Conference for at least the immediate future. While not being selected to the Big 12 during this round of expansion talks could have long-term financial implications for the university, conference realignment as a whole is far from dead.
The Big 12’s pro-rata clause in their television contract, which expires in 2025, means that expansion will almost certainly be on the table for years to come unless ESPN or Fox decides to buy out the clause, which indicates that each school in the conference would gain $25 million for each new member added. This clause and the money that could possibly be made from it will likely be the reason expansion talks could rise up once again in the years to come.