Big 12 Expansion: More Programs, More Problems

    Big 12 expansion's potential financial impact analyzed by sports business insider Kristi Dosh.

    February 18, 2016

    Big 12 expansion is the hot offseason topic, but how would a move financially impact the conference and member schools?


    The Big 12 is reporting record revenue for the conference in fiscal year 2015, with $268 million in total revenue. The figure is a $40 million increase over the previous year, representing a 17-percent increase in revenue.

    On the surface that all sounds great.

    Dig a little deeper, and here’s what you get . . .

    Bowl revenue jumped by almost 75 percent – or $32 million – thanks in no small part to the first year of College Football Playoff payouts and the Big 12’s “Champions Bowl” venture with the SEC for the Sugar Bowl. The rest of the $40 million increase was from the conference’s television contract.

    Payouts to the eight full members ranged from $22.9 million to $23.8 million, with newer member TCU receiving $20.4 million and West Virginia receiving $20.3 million.

    Fine, those numbers are all well and good. But I guarantee you the Big 12 members aren’t focusing on those numbers. They’re focusing on these: the SEC distributed $9.4 million more per school than the Big 12 last year.

    Not only did the SEC have a team in the national championship, which equates to $6 million, but it was the first year of the SEC Network. That’s where the big bucks were, to the tune of $7 million per school.

    And that’s something the Big 12 isn’t going to have, not even if it adds members.

    Here’s what happens if the Big 12 adds to its membership: it’s current television contracts are increased pro rata to cover equal shares to the new members. Now there are two or four more members to share the rest of the pie with in terms of conference revenue like sponsorships. Two or four more members to share in money from the NCAA tournament – so, if they’re not putting teams in the tournament and earning the conference additional shares, they’re essentially like your teenage children eating you out of house and home.

    Maybe adding a football championship game adds a little revenue into the mix, but we’re not talking life-changing sums.

    The real difference between the SEC and the Big 12 is the SEC Network.

    Don’t even get me started on the reasons a conference network isn’t happening for the Big 12 right now. Everyone focuses on the Longhorn Network – forget about that. What about the state of the cable industry right now? You really think with upswing in cord cutters that now is the right time to launch a new cable channel and try to negotiate subscription fees?

    So, I’m sorry Big 12 – but there’s no quick fix that boosts your bottom line to SEC, or even Big Ten, type numbers.

    MORE: 10 Best Schools The Big 12 Could Add

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