Big 12 contracts still in talks, expansion not in near future


Bob Bowlsby answers the media’s questions at a Big 12 meeting Aug. 21, 2012, in the Jacobson Building’s Hunziker Auditorium. 

Jake Calhoun

A deal for the grant of rights TV contract has yet to be reached with the new additions of Texas Christian and West Virginia for the Big 12 Conference, said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Tuesday during his visit to Ames.

The grant of rights, which is an agreement of the school to allow TV networks to televise its athletic events, must be signed by every member of the conference before it can take effect.

Bowlsby, an Iowa native who was formerly the athletic director at the University of Northern Iowa, the University of Iowa and Stanford before becoming commissioner of the Big 12 in May, said the agreement takes time to fall into place.

“When I was in the Big Ten, we went almost three years without a signed contract with ABC, and I expect that we will get that wrapped up much quicker than three years,” Bowlsby said.

The TV contract, which reached a verbal agreement shortly after Bowlsby’s hiring, will be the catalyst to set in place the grant of rights that will then be in effect regardless of a school’s affiliation if it should switch conferences.

The current contract that is in talks is reportedly worth $2.6 billion in a 13-year agreement with Fox and ESPN, according to

Bowlsby declined to name a timetable for when a deal could get done, but said the talks are in the later stages of the process.

“We can’t fully execute the [TV] contract until we have the grant of rights that covers the full range of the TV deal,” Bowlsby said. “It’s going to likely be a 12- or 13-year grant of rights.”

A good portion of the athletic department’s income stems from money that comes from the TV agreement in a system that now uses revenue sharing for all Big 12 schools.

One significant issue that has created tension in the Big 12 camp for the contract negotiations has been the presence of the Longhorn Network — Texas’ individual TV network with an ESPN affiliation that has conflicted with possible broadcast schedules with Fox.

“I’m not sure anyone else in our league could have done what Texas did with ESPN,” Bowlsby said.

Bowlsby said the installment of revenue sharing in the Big 12, however, was a “big step” in ensuring the competitive integrity of the league.

Specific details about the finances of the contract negotiations were not discussed during Bowlsby’s news conference.

Possibility of expansion

Overall, Bowlsby began the news conference saying public perception of the Big 12 is not exactly reflective with the way things are in the conference behind the scenes almost one year following near-complete annihilation of the league.

Four schools — Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri — left the conference before the firing of former Commissioner Dan Beebe.

The grant of rights — should it be ratified — will aid in keeping teams from jumping to other conferences.

When asked if there was anything else in place to help keep teams from leaving, Bowlsby said he wants to “incentivize rather than penalize” by having the departments of all the schools develop rapport with each other, among other things.

“We have to make the conference such that no one would ever want to leave,” Bowlsby said.

The additions of Texas Christian and West Virginia replenished the league back to 10 teams while adding a competitive element for football, but expansion remains in the minds of fans and schools as the league moves forward.

“Expansion or conference alignment overall will always be on our radar,” Bowlsby said. “I think it will be on every agenda that we have going forward just because you can’t afford to not think about those kinds of things and consider the options.”

As of now, Bowlsby said the conference is content with the number of schools it has but would be open to admitting other schools if they exceed expectations for admittance.

In terms of expansion, Bowlsby declined to name any schools that have contacted the conference of possible admission.