MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — David Boren, the University of Oklahoma president who once seemed dead-set on Big 12 expansion, now implies the issue is simply dead.
Or dormant, at least.
The man who last year labeled his league “psychologically disadvantaged” because it had only 10 members, suddenly sounds satisfied with the status quo.
“I don’t anticipate any dramatic action on expansion this summer,” Boren told the OU Daily on Tuesday. “I think we should just sort of take our time on expansion, not rush it this summer, not try to push anything through.”
Why has Boren stopped beating the growth drum even as more candidates shine up their facilities and line up for a chance to join? Because Big 12 leaders have learned that a football championship game guarantees significant revenue while a league-wide network doesn’t.
Chalk up those revelations to consultants recently presenting copious projections and financial models to the Big 12 presidents who ultimately will decide on expansion. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby asked the presidents to make up their minds by end of summer, a soft deadline he wouldn’t have dared to speak publicly had he not been assured that the group was capable of agreeing.
Some of those presidents remain in favor of adding teams, but Boren’s statements underscore how patience not panic carries the day. I presumed the wonkiness of playing a championship game on the heels of a round-robin regular-season schedule foretold of an inevitable jump to 12 or 14 members. And it still seems inevitable, just not before Labor Day.
Through two years of the College Football Playoff, the Big 12 had but one participant, and Oklahoma got in as the fourth and final seed last December. So the conference wisely added a 13th data point.
Now comes the resumption of the Big 12 championship game, one fixed to generate $27 million annually and a mix of rematches—some terrific, some tedious. My guess is that come 2018 or 2020, the likes of BYU, Cincinnati and perhaps Houston and a fourth candidate will be invited.
Because none of those schools are going anywhere in the interim, they’ll remain eager to dance whenever asked. So eager, in fact, that some schools reportedly are willing to enter under far more restrictive revenue shares than West Virginia and TCU faced during their four-year phase-ins. But taking advantage of desperate newcomers is no way to run a league, especially one sabotaged by harsh feelings during the last round of realignment.
And that’s where Boren’s comments reverberate most: This league appears to be getting along. Sure, Texas remains the cash cow with its own network, but Oklahoma must be pacified every bit as much as UT if the Big 12 is to prosper. The league can’t stand to lose either one. So when OU’s president says “there’s no longer the urgency on expansion,” it signals a level of mutual respect and a satisfaction that the house is sufficient and in order.
And for the time being, there’s no rush to add on.