The Big 12’s tenuous future took another hit Sunday, when ACC commissioner John Swofford announced the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, a move that is expected to open the door to widespread conference realignment and likely will send a four-team collection of Big 12 schools to the Pac-12.
Because Pitt and Syracuse are current members of the Big East, the league that TCU will join next season, TCU’s future conference home could become a tenuous place -- just like the Big 12 -- if more realignment unfolds, as expected, later this week.
In announcing the ACC additions, Swofford said he is “not philosophically opposed” to increasing membership to 16 schools but noted that it would be “preferable” but not mandatory to continue adding schools located in the Eastern time zone.
The ACC’s expressed preference for more East Coast teams, combined with some creative expansion plans placed on the table by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, caused Texas officials to begin looking strongly Sunday at joining Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in what would become the Pac-16 -- a move that almost happened last summer.
Big 12 administrators with knowledge of the situation said the Pac-16 idea appeared to be gaining traction Sunday, with Pac-12 officials suggesting a way to modify the Longhorn Network to fit under existing league guidelines while allowing Texas to keep the brunt of its third-tier TV rights revenues. Administrators also indicated the likelihood of dividing the league into four-team pods for travel purposes, with Tech, Texas, Oklahoma and OSU all becoming part of the same pod to minimize travel concerns.
One Big 12 administrator said Sunday that nothing is certain but “all signs seem to be pointing” in the direction of the Pac-16 for the Big 12 schools.
Texas and Oklahoma regents meet Monday, with presidents at both schools expected to be authorized to take action in regard to realignment.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott made it clear Saturday that his league could offer “a lot of flexibility and a lot of creativity” to its divisional alignments, including adoption of a pod system, and that idea seemed to be growing on administrators Sunday. He also expressed optimism about tweaking the LHN to fit under existing Pac-12 guidelines because the league has a long-standing relationship with ESPN, with contracted with Texas to create the LHN.
Scott said the Pac-12 plans to “be at the forefront of changes in the college landscape” and has had discussions with “multiple” schools in recent weeks. But the league has yet to receive any new applications for membership.
“But … I’m not going to answer that question every day,” Scott said, smiling.
In the posting about Texas’ meeting, school officials said regents will take “appropriate action regarding potential legal issues related to athletic conference membership and contracting” and will authorize a “delegation to act on” conference alignment.
Multiple Big 12 sources have said Oklahoma’s preference is an expanded Pac-12. Texas had been looking heavily at the ACC before that league’s expansion plan appeared to veer off strongly in an East Coast direction.
Asked about Texas during Sunday’s announcement of ACC expansion, Swofford declined comment and later called the ACC’s equal revenue-sharing model “sacred,” a stance that could make it difficult for the league to add Texas and its 20-year, $300 million agreement with ESPN for the Longhorn Network to its inventory of schools.
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