Dear Bob Bowlsby, Here’s Your Next Move: The Big American Conference
On Monday, August 2nd, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke in front of the Texas Senate’s Select Committee on the Future of College Sports in Texas and had nothing but bad news for the remaining Big 12 Teams and their fans.
Bowlsby said the TV revenue would be cut in half as a result of Oklahoma and Texas fleeing the conference, which would make a $28 million dollar payout closer to $14 million dollars.
Bowlsby noted that the current Media Rights deal runs through 2025, but that he was skeptical the Sooners and Longhorns remain through that date.
"Knowing what they have said about their adherence to the grant of rights and seeing what has happened with the remaining elements of the departure, one can understand our skepticism about the sincerity of their now-stated intentions to play with us and participate through 2024-25," Bowlsby said.
I've been critical of Bowlsby at nearly every turn of his tenure, and this latest outing from the Big 12 commish leaves me at a new low point. Bowlsby had to know Oklahoma was unhappy with the media rights deal, and he tried to force them to re-up until 2030. Bowlsby had to know that the University of Texas is always looking out for themselves, yet is completely blindsided by the school making moves to better the team's situation?
Forget for a moment the current landscape of the Big 12, with the conference at the brink of explosion. Bowlsby stood pat numerous times when expansion was on the table for the conference and stayed at 10 teams. Arizona and Arizona State could have been added. Utah is upset in the Pac 12. Nebraska is upset in the Big Ten.
If the leadership of the Big 12 had a modicum of foresight, the Big 12 would have kept up in the arms race with the ACC, the Big Ten and the SEC. That's not the case, and now people are looking to the only other conference that refused to expand to... expand? Let's just assume for a minute that the Pac 12 doesn't want to expand, even though that will lead to the slow death of their conference, much like it did for the Big 12.
I'm not opposed to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State taking two friends and joining the Pac 12, but if for some reason the Pac 12 expansion model is off the table, what's the next best move for the Big 12 teams that remain? It's not dissolving and going their separate ways. I don't think that helps anyone. Though if Kansas and Iowa State are offered a seat at the Big Ten table, they should take it. Likewise, a team like West Virginia should jump at the chance to be in the ACC.
Since we're living in hypothetical land here, let's set the scene a bit: The date is April 30th, 2024. Texas and Oklahoma have officially announced they will join the SEC in the fall, severing all ties with the Big 12. In a shock to everyone, Bob Bowlsby has a tangible plan. He's navigated a merger for the remaining eight teams from the Big 12 to join the eight best teams from the American Athletic Conference and form the Big American Conference.
That gives the Big American Conference 16 schools and a seat at the table with ESPN.
I know a lot of people will respond to this with the tired idea that the "Power 5" is the only way to survive, but I think that's a dead way to look at college football. The landscape is changing rapidly, and I think it's best to jump onto a ship that's borderline stable. In my opinion, the AAC/ESPN ship seems much less leaky than the PAC12/FOX ship.
I get that I'm going against the grain of popular opinion here, but the Pac 12 is a dying league. They are stuck in the past, and frankly, so is Bob Bowlsby. According to reporter Darby Brown, Bowlsby said the conference is looking to past research to facilitate expansion.
I'd like to speak directly to Mr. Bowlsby for a second.
Bob, I beg of you, look to the future. The future is fewer conferences and less NCAA interaction. College football is trending to "Super Conferences" and you're getting left in the dust. I promise you, Bob, this isn't just a slow news week. Plenty of stuff is going on.
Back to the Big American Conference. If West Virginia, Kansas and Iowa State stick around to make it work in a conference with 16 teams, you could fit the teams into four pods of four.
Just for the sake of listing all of the teams, here's my rough draft of the Big American Conference. The first pod would feature Texas Tech, TCU, Houston and SMU. Follow the chart below for the other pods.
Would this conference get you back to $28 million dollars of TV revenue per year? Not immediately, but that's not immediately available anywhere for Texas Tech. At this point, the Red Raiders need to limit the damage, while simultaneously finding a long-term landing spot. I think the Pac 12 is heading in a downward trajectory, while the AAC is at the very least aligned with ESPN, who will soon own college football as a whole.
Maybe it's just making a deal with the devil, but at least the conference would play the fiddle real good.