Door more ajar for Big 12 expansion than previously thought?

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If you had “NO” in the “Can we make it through the summer without expansion speculation?” pool, be prepared to collect your winnings as the realignment rumor mill just might be ready to get cranked up once again.

When it comes to expansion and the Big 12 moving from 10 back up to 12 members, the conventional wisdom says there are myriad reasons it’s highly unlikely to happen, with one factor — in addition to lack of high-profile candidates — overriding most others: There’s no way that conference would take a financial pie that’s currently carved up into 10 slices and pare the same dessert into 12 smaller pieces.  Put simplistically, and using the record revenue announced earlier this year — and fully understanding TCU and West Virginia don’t yet receive full shares, nor would any new members — this year’s average of $26 million per for 10 schools would’ve dropped to approximately $21.7 million per for 12.  Or so we thought.

The words of one of the most powerful men in the conference Wednesday, though, has the potential to be a game-changer, at least on the speculative front in the here and now.

“The contract says that our main television contract … if we grow from 10 to 11 or 11 to 12, their payments to us grow proportionally,” Oklahoma president David Boren said, after saying he prefers “12 rather than 10.” “So everybody’s share stays the same. If it’s ‘X’ dollars, it stays ‘X’ dollars.

“Our main media contract says it’s not the same pie now cut 12 ways instead of 10.”

That is certainly, well, interesting, and something that differs from what nearly every powerbroker in the league has intimated publicly and privately prior to this.  In fact, it’s a significant shift from a national perspective and how the potential for expansion is viewed moving forward.

Boren did offer one small caveat, though, when it came to those projections.  From The Oklahoman:

Boren did say that that only includes the primary television contract, not other revenue that is split between the schools.

“It’s not total because there’s some smaller—much smaller—amounts of money around the edges but if you can find the right people, it should be additive even though it’s split 12 ways instead of 10.”

While it may be “much smaller” in Boren’s view, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, by way of the outstanding Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News, indicated that 40-45 percent of the conference’s revenue would not increase with additional members and would instead be split 12 ways instead of 10.  That 40-45 percent would include, but not be limited to, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and, especially, the College Football Playoff.  Especially the latter.

From Kristi Dosh in her role at the Business of College Sports website, on the 2014-15 CFP revenue distribution model for the Big 12 conference:

$50 million base to the conference

$4 million to the conference for TCU (Peach Bowl)

$4 million to the conference for Baylor (Cotton Bowl)

Total: $58 million to the conference

Conference distribution model: Bowl revenues are divided evenly between the 10 member institutions after subsidies are provided to participating institutions.

In a 10-team model, the CFP payout would average roughly $5.8 million per Big 12 member; a 12-team model would average roughly $4.83 million for the same conference.

That general distribution model, incidentally, is nearly identical for every Power Five conference with the exception of the SEC (click on Kristi’s link HERE to read how that conference carves up its share of the CFP pie).

For Longhorns and Sooners, losing a million-dollar CFP revenue chunk that expansion would bring wouldn’t mean that much.  To programs like Iowa State or Kansas or Kansas State?  It’d mean more, and add to potential aversion to inflating the member roll.  But, still, if it’s better for the long-term health of the conference as a whole, many or most likely wouldn’t be averse to a short-term hit.

There is one significant, lingering hurdle — even above how some revenue is split — the conference would likely have to navigate if expansion to 12 is something that ever reaches an as-of-now unattainable consensus.  The first- and second-tier revenue rights are, essentially, shared relatively equally amongst all 10 Big 12 members.  It’s when you get to the “lowest” level of revenue rights, though, when another boulder — some would call it the Bowlsby Boulder — could block any potential road that would lead to Big 12 expansion.

For the 2014-15 financial cycle, both Oklahoma and West Virginia received in the neighborhood of $6.5 million for third-tier rights. Thanks solely to the Longhorn Network, Texas pulled in an additional $15 million above what was split with the other members.

And, speaking of the 800-pound TV Bevo squatting in the middle of the conference offices…

“The elephant in the room remains the network south of us that has struggled and has in a way as long as it’s there,” Boren said, referring to the LHN. “And we have done quite well with our network and if anything ever changed, it has value to it which we see. But someday, maybe we’ll get past that other problem as well. It’s a problem.”

And there you have it. Again.

… other problem…

… a problem…

Austin, we have a problem.

Once the LHN “problem” is resolved — and it’s been a problem in the minds of most non-UT folks in the conference since its inception, including the commissioner — the Big 12 might be able to get its actual membership number to match its name.  But getting past that “problem” could prove to be the biggest hurdle of all, even given the OU president’s revenue revelations.

Still, Boren’s quotes stating that the TV revenue would grow with additions, not the same revenue split 12 ways instead of 10, is significant news.

In other words, BYU — and some current AAC/Conference USA schools — we’re telling you there’s a chance