Big 12 athletic directors spent several hours Monday discussing the pros and cons of maintaining their 10-team configuration or eventually making additions to the conference — or maybe doing something in between.
League commissioner Bob Bowlsby repeated what he has said before "that our current composition is terrific for us" but the ADs went through plenty of "what-if" scenarios to be prepared for any eventuality in what has been an ongoing shift of conference affiliations. The Big 12 has lost four members to other leagues while adding West Virginia and TCU.
"I think we did gravitate around some principles that will guide us going forward and I think we created some filters that we all agreed on," Bowlsby said after the first day of their regular scheduled two-day meeting. "I think there was a fair amount of unanimity in the room."
Among the possibilities is an alliance with other conferences, including the ACC, and Bowlsby said there appears to be unanimous support for the idea.
"We talked about those kinds of things, and I think there are some ways that you can get some of the benefits and some of the value of larger configuration without actually adding members," Bowlsby said. "We spent a good portion of the late afternoon talking about how that all fit together and how it worked."
Bowlsby didn't get into specifics and wouldn't say what other conferences could be in the mix. Pac-12 and SEC officials have indicated they have had no such discussions with the Big 12.
All the Big 12 athletic directors agreed to defer questions to Bowlsby, but several seemed encouraged by their discussions when asked what was accomplished.
The primary items on Tuesday's agenda are football scheduling and bowl alliances.
Their first day was reserved for discussing the makeup of the league, and Bowlsby said that was "talked completely through for about three hours." Bowlsby said there were a whole bunch of different financial and geographical and scheduling possibilities discussed.
Bowlsby described the meeting as a free-flowing opportunity to interject a lot of ideas, and said the interactive nature by everyone in the room was probably indicative of the interest in the topic.
"I think that it's possible to make a considered decision to stay at the most favorable structure and that's where we have been," Bowlsby said. "But having said that, I don't think we ever want to be in a position of being un-nimble, and by that I mean it's a changing environment and we have to be prepared to respond to that changing environment, and this meeting is certainly going to help us do that."
Bowlsby said there is evidence that dictates the league stay at 10 schools, and other that suggests getting bigger.
"We have evidence on both sides of it," he said. "But I don't know that any of it is compelling enough to cause change right now."
Forbes recently projected revenue conferences would generate this school year through network television deals, bowl games and NCAA tournaments. The Big 12 is expected to earn $262 million, which averages to $26.2 million for each of the 10 schools — the highest per-team average of any conference.
According to Forbes, Big Ten teams would an average of $25.8 million from a $310 million poll, followed by the Pac-12 ($25.3 million), ACC ($24.4 million). The SEC, which expanded to 14 teams with the additions this school year of former Big 12 members Texas A&M and Missouri will average about $19.3 million per team.
When asked if any school the Big 12 might consider in the future would have to be able to bring the same kind of revenue, Bowlsby said, "Anybody we would look at would have to bring prorata or a very high likelihood of sustained growth that would bring benefits to the league. We are never going to get bigger just for the sake of getting bigger."
Bowlsby said the kind of scenarios the ADs worked through were if the Big 12 needed to be proactive based on actions of other conferences. What if a league like the Big Ten decided to add two more teams?
"It's not about what we're prepared to do," Bowlsby said. "It's that we're prepared."