Well, that didn’t take Bob Bowlsby long.
Introduced as the Big 12 Conference’s new commissioner on Friday, CBS Sports’ dynamic journalism duo of Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy report Bowlsby is on the verge of ushering in 13-year television deal worth $2.6 billion. FOX and the Big 12 inked a $1.2 billion package last month, and ESPN would foot the rest.
The combining of FOX and ESPN is reminiscent of the negotiation Larry Scott scored for the Pac-12 last spring, a $2.7 billion, 12-year contract. The Pac-12 deal averages out to about $5 million more per year, but split among two more programs — that is, assuming the Big 12 is holding steady at 10 for the duration of the contract.
Dodd and McMurphy address the potential of more members, writing:
This new deal is based on a 10-team league and sources said it could be worth even more per school if the Big 12 expands to 11 or 12 teams.
There are two ways of assessing the new deal as it pertains to possible Big 12 expanse. The first is that the Florida State-Clemson partnership some outlets reported as being very close, if not done, will not come to pass. Why announce a blockbuster television contract when even bigger news about membership is on the horizon?
The other way of looking at this news is that Bowlsby is going all-in on a push to attract new members. In this proverbial poker game, Bowlsby is showing his hand. It’s a good one, but is it a full house?
The Big 12 stands to dole out somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million per members — roughly $6 million more than the anticipated split from ACC re-negotiations. The attractiveness of the Big 12′s stipends are predicated on that figure increasing with new members, however. Assuming the report of stipulations pertaining to additions is accurate, the Big 12 has an ace-in-the-hole.
Even if no such stipulation exists, the Big 12 is declaring itself in league with the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 for the long haul. The conference has always had a claim to being right near the apex of on-field product. It finally has a television package to back that up. And if the pot doesn’t increase with new membership, there’s no reason to expand. The deal is apparently inked with no conference championship game or added markets. Further, Bowlsby expressed support for the round robin schedule that pits all 10 conference members against one another over the regular season’s duration.
John Marinatto’s resignation as Big East commissioner comes at a coincidental time (how coincidental, really?). The Big East is the conference left to sweat the most from this Big 12 power play.