This is an exploratory article on the future of the Big 12. The conference’s Grant of Rights holdings on current members expires after 2024. While teams would like to stay, it is yet to be determined whether the financial incentives will exist to keep them together.
One solution explored here is a merging with the American Atheletic Conference and the implementation of a smart promotion-relegation system between the two.
The Big 12 has grabbed only 1 of the 12 playoff spots thus far. While the league has pinned its playoff aspirations on this year’s re-inaugural “Big XII Championship Game,” the stats show that such a game is more likely to result in an upset than in any needed boost to get into the playoff.
A “Championship Game” is quite appropriate to determine a champion in larger conferences, where the number of losses between participants, statistically, will be fewer. And so expansion to a true 12-team conference would be a boon to the Big 12.
However it was found that whatever immediate benefits this might have in the playoff quest, the TV networks balked and threatened to spend less on the Big 12 football product. The problem is not that Houston or USF are not “good” products, but that, on average, there is a lot of football dross (Kansas, Iowa State, etc) that weigh the product down.
One Possible Solution
If a promotion-relegation system were implemented, programs like Kansas and Iowa State could be dropped from the premier Big 12 conference and placed in a more (commercially) competitive situation within the American conference. Of course, success can be cyclical and one day Houston or West Virginia may need to be “relegated” and programs like Cincinnati or Memphis “promoted”.
Right now a team in the Big 12 makes around 10x as much as a team from the American. An immediate slash in revenue would be unplatable; likewise an immediate windfall in revenue could be ill spent by its recipients. Instead, Big 12 teams will be assigned 10 shares the first year while American teams will be assigned 1. Teams in the upper conference will gain a share each year, not to exceed the maximum of 10; while teams in the lower conference will lose a share each year, unless they already have less than the average number of league shares, which starts at 5.5.
This will lead to a slow evening of team revenue. Kansas may dive into the lower conference, but they won’t drop below 5 shares. It’d take 9 years for a Houston team to reach their maximum revenue. Eventually the average will increase, keeping lower teams from going below 5, then 6, then 7 shares.
Texas and Oklahoma will be granted immunity from relegation. Even if one of these giants is “bad” they are both still the primary revenue drivers in their leagues. This also assures that they never lose their full 10 revenue shares.
The Big 12 and American maintain seperate conference identities and constituancies in all other sports. This is merely a football alliance among 22+ teams creating two “football conferences.” Should a school like BYU wish to join they must join the football alliance directly, likely as a member of the lower conference. Addition into the Big 12 or American in other sports does not guarantee admittance into their shared football league.
Who Gets Promoted? Relegated? Scheduled?
Two teams from each conference will switch. The champion of the American conference and the American team with the next best league record will be promoted. The two teams with the worst league record from the Big 12 will be relegated. A 2-year summation of league records may also be used.
All teams will play a 9-game “league” schedule; this includes games between both conferences as well. Each team will play a full divisional round-robin; Big 12 teams will also play at least 2 teams from the other “upper” division; and all other games will be based upon “requested” rivalries and a thorough mixing of opponents.
If Kansas and Iowa State are relegated to the American conference, they will each play 5 division games (including 1 against each other) and may play 4 games outside of their division against, all of which could be against Big 8 rivals.
Teams will never have 5 away games in more than 1 consecutive year (2 years if in the lower conference). No team shall have three consecutive years of 5 home games or 3 years of 5 away games in any 5-year period. This flexibility allows for promotion/relegation within these parameters for all teams and tilts home-game revenue toward the stronger schools within the league.
Divisions will be in flux each year and will likely require non-Standard names. Because non-division games may vary wildly in difficulty, access to the Championship Game, at least in the lower American conference will likely be based solely on division record.
Here are a few sample schedules for this new league in the second year of operation. We will presume USF, Houston, Tulsa, and Temple are promoted, Kansas and Iowa State are relegated, and BYU and Boise State are added to the lower division.
Sample Oklahoma schedule
Kansas State (division)
OK State (division)
Sample Kansas schedule
Boise St (division)
Iowa State (division)
Sample USF Schedule
Texas Tech (division)
West Virginia (division)
Sample Tulane schedule
Central Florida (division)
E Carolina (division)