Gonzaga’s candidacy, Pac-12’s future, Texas and Oklahoma exit plans on deck with Big 12 brass set to meet
When the Big 12 presidents and athletic directors begin meeting Thursday at the Grand Hyatt at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, you might as well bring your popcorn.
On the agenda is Gonzaga’s potential basketball sign-up. That alone has realignment implications beyond the Big 12. There will also be talk of Texas and Oklahoma possibly exiting early for the SEC.
Entering its first season with new members BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, the Big 12 may be discussing its only sports year with 14 teams. It’s also a problem between Texas and Oklahoma.
Expansion is still in play, especially until the Pac-12 signs a new media rights deal.
Basketball typically earns around 20% of the value of any media rights deal. That’s why football is so much more important. This is also why no Power Five conference has a basketball-only membership.
But it’s Gonzaga, a national powerhouse, and it’s commissioner Brett Yormark, who is looking to stand out in his new role and is suing the school as a basketball-only addition. (The Bulldogs don’t play football.)
After spending 43 years in the West Coast mid-major conference, there are indications that Gonzaga wants to play at a competitive level — and get paid for it. Numerous reports indicate that the West Coast powerhouse is at least considering its options with the Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East all potential landing spots.
“I guess if [the Big 12] wanted Gonzaga, they would have Gonzaga,” a person familiar with media rights deals told CBS Sports.
May be. On the school side, the decision would largely rest with coach Mark Few, who has guided the Zags since 1999. The program is currently in the midst of a rights deal with ESPN and CBS that expires in 2026-27.
On the Big 12 side, Yormark tried to sell its advertisements on the concept of a basketball-only member. They’ve already seen a presentation regarding Gonzaga’s membership, but it didn’t include any financial details. Don’t be surprised if the ADs sought to assess Gonzaga’s inclusion with league media consultant Endeavour.
“I think that’s probably the lesson that I’ve been taught over and over again is that we underestimate the power of our brand nationally,” Gonzaga AD Chris Standiford told AFP. AP in December.
Gonzaga negotiated for a weighted share of NCAA Tournament revenue from the WCC, as he is by far the most consistent player in the league in the playoffs. From 1999 to 2019, Gonzaga produced over 70% of the WCC’s 75 “units” – revenue from the NCAA for every tournament victory.
In the Power Five, most (if not all) of the tournament revenue is split evenly among the schools by the conferences.
The attraction between the two parties is obvious. The Big 12 is already the best basketball league. With Gonzaga, it would get even stronger. Membership would isolate the Zags in case the tournament field grows and clubs like the WCC lose their automatic qualifier status. This was speculated when the NCAA Transformation Committee released its recommendations last month.
In return for his brand contribution, Gonzaga would gain security and access to NCAA tournament revenue that topped $32 million in 2020. The WCC and Gonzaga have been tight-lipped about what the league and program currently earns. in revenue from media rights.
“All the money they get [from the Big 12] must be more than what they earn,” an industry insider said.
As for the financial impact, Gonzaga would not get a full share of Big 12 revenue which currently averages $31.66 million a year. Some see the value of college basketball increasing on the road because of streaming. More streaming interest means more money.
Current dilution comes from supersaturation. With 363 Division I teams, there are too many televised games that mean nothing.
Perhaps the biggest issue is what to do with Gonzaga’s minor sports. The WCC is unlikely to allow them to stay in the conference without basketball. Joining the Big 12, if even a possibility, would create significant travel expenses with teams stationed everywhere from Florida to West Virginia to West Texas.
In 2019, when Gonzaga renegotiated his deal, he used suitor Mountain West as leverage. Now the interested parties are bigger, better and richer.
And the Pac-12?
Geographically, the Pac-12 makes the most sense for Gonzaga. But the league remaining unstable in several key areas could lead Gonzaga, and some of the Pac-12’s own schools, to the Big 12.
The Pac-12 presidents and ADs concluded a regular meeting scheduled for Monday without a resolution in its ongoing media rights negotiations. The Pac-12 needs this fixed before proceeding with anything else.
The current media agreement with Fox and ESPN expires on July 1, 2024. It is extremely late in the negotiation process (17 months) to be even this far from an agreement given that there is an expiring agreement.
“I will not tell [it’s] a concern,” said an AD Pac-12. “We are in a process. …Panic or impatience won’t make a difference.”
Meanwhile, the Big 12 — Yormark, in particular — remains interested in these Four Corners schools: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah. While Pac-12 programs have declared varying levels of loyalty during this uncertain time, the longer these negotiations drag on, the more questions will come to members’ minds. On several occasions, Yormark has publicly stated that he wants a West Coast presence to broadcast his talk in all four time zones.
Beyond Gonzaga and those Pac-12 schools, San Diego State remains a Pacific option for the Big 12. A new Pac-12 deal could come in the first quarter of 2023 involving ESPN and Amazon.
The situation in Texas and Oklahoma
Texas and Oklahoma recently offered the Big 12 and Fox to leave the league a year early for the SEC, sources told CBS Sports this week. It was rejected. The nature of the offer was unclear.
CBS Sports previously reported that the Big 12 rights holder should be made amends for losing the Longhorns and Sooners early in its lineup. That could involve a series of non-conference games involving both schools played in Big 12 stadiums once Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC.
Fox and ESPN hold linear broadcast rights to the Big 12 through 2024-25. ESPN owns 63% of the value of the new $2.3 billion deal that begins in 2025. As such, it gets top picks with the top four football games each season, six of the best eight, eight of 12 best and 12 of the best. 20, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Fox, which owns the remaining 37% of the deal, receives 26 games per season. It’s unclear if Fox would have access to some of those ESPN picks if a deal is reached.
There was speculation that Tuesday’s release of the 2023 Big 12 schedule was related to the Texas-Oklahoma issue. In other words, nothing could happen until it was known when the programs would leave the league.
Not true. The league faced an early February deadline from its rights holders for the schedule to be drawn up. Fox and ESPN were to start planning the games themselves.
Meanwhile, time is running out for a possible early release. As CBS Sports reported, Texas and Oklahoma want to leave early, but there are plenty of complications.
The pair first made it known in August 2022 that they wanted to leave the Big 12 for the SEC at the end of the 2023 season. For now, they are constrained by the current media rights agreement of stay until the 2024 campaign before moving on.