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Could Big 12's potential $1 billion payday be CSU's way into Power 5?

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June 2, 2016


To the Big 12 or not to the Big 12, that is the question. For Colorado State, as well as multiple other potential programs hoping to move up and into the big time.

It seems, no one knows for sure what will happen with the current 10-team conference which is the Big 12 besides this: Texas does not want expansion because it will mean complications with their Longhorn Network and contract with ESPN.

A few days ago, a report came out saying the Big 12 wouldn’t expand, wouldn’t create a conference television network, for now. Then, a few hours later, sources said the league would expand, leaving football fans wondering what’s really going on.

Well, Dennis Dodd of CBS yesterday said sources came to him explaining the Big 12 could earn $1 billion by expanding. Thanks to the Big 12’s television deal with ESPN and FOX, an expansion by four teams — to 14 — would mean an extra $1 billion in revenue over the length of the deal. An expansion by two teams would mean an additional $500 million earned by the conference. The current television deal runs for the next eight years, through the 2024-25 season.

If it were to happen, each new team would be paid an equal share, or around $23 million per year. That would be a massive windfall of money for Colorado State, who spent $38.78M in 2015 per the USA TODAY.

With Big 12 league meetings happening today and tomorrow, these new numbers surrounding the guaranteed TV money will be shared with the presidents of the current 10-team league. On Friday, Dodd explains, Chris Bevilacqua will break down the details of what expanding would mean, as well as adding a conference championship and Big 12 television network.

Of course, the school with the least amount of desire to expand remains Texas with their Longhorn Network, which would essentially have to be discontinued in favor of a Big 12 Network.

Yesterday, Texas athletic director Mike Perrin said, “The prudent thing for [the Big 12] to do is stay where we are.”

And continued, “I can’t think of any single factor” that would cause Texas to be in favor of expansion, per Dodd’s piece.

However, if a supermajority (8-of-10 teams) votes to expand, the conference will move forward in that direction. Of course, expansion is anything but guaranteed at this point, but a $1 billion payday for the conference is possibly enough to increase the league by two, four or even six teams. Though, it seems expansion by two teams seems to be the most likely.

At 12 teams, the Big 12 would retain most of the stability they’d like to keep, as it would ensure those 10 current teams are the vast majority of those who make up the conference. And at 12 teams, they could add that coveted conference championship, which would increase revenue again with sponsors likely clamoring to be a part of it all.

So, who would be a potential second team to join with Colorado State? The most likely would seem to be Brigham Young University, as both teams are from the Mountain Time Zone, both have a longstanding rivalry and each have been recently strong programs, at least in football. The Rams boast strong athletics across the board as of late and the school’s academics are second to none.

In Pat Forde’s piece from today, he addresses CSU’s positives and negatives:

“Selling Points: Ascendant school that now has the largest enrollment in the state (32,236), surpassing Colorado in 2015-16 for the first time. Building a new, 41,200-seat on-campus stadium that is scheduled to open in 2017. Bullish administration that is significantly ramping up funding and fundraising for both academics and athletics.

Problems: Like BYU, addition of CSU would make the Big 12 a three-time-zone league. Impact in Denver TV market is debatable, given the presence of four pro sports and all-encompassing focus on the Broncos. Would have to prove it’s a destination school for rising coaching talent, and not a steppingstone. Another academically unspectacular school. Is the league markedly improved with Colorado State, or just bigger?”

Interestingly, he with the same question for every school. Would adding any of the eight teams he examines — CSU, BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Connecticut, Houston, Memphis or South Florida — make the league markedly improved, or just bigger?

Certainly, an expansion would make it bigger, which would include that bigger payday for the entire conference and every team. Currently, the Big 12 is about $9 million a year behind the SEC in revenue and an expansion to 14 teams would mean cutting that in “half” per Dodd’s sources.

There’s an argument that adding CSU and BYU would, indeed, make it a better league. Yes, it would expand the Big 12 to three timezones but it also would create a new geographic rivalry for the conference. BYU and CSU have played each other 69 times from 1922-2010, when BYU left the Mountain West to become independent in 2011. Plus, CSU, BYU and TCU all played one another annually from 2005-2011, so there’s another bit of recent history.

But, for now, we all just have to wait and see what happens next. Stay tuned as there’s likely to be new rumors coming out of the meetings this week.

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