This is the last season of the Big 12 as we know it. Next year, the league will add BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to bring the count to 14 in preparation for the eventual departure of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC for the 2025-26 school year.
We knew all of that, but a report that was released on Friday should help us understand how that 14-team football scheduling could work, and give an answer to murmurings that the two departing schools might try to exit early.
The Big 12 is finalizing a workable temporary 14-team football scheduling model for 2023 and 2024, according to a report by Chip Patterson and Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports released on Friday. The scheduling model was also reported by Sports Illustrated. This came just a day after a similar report was released about Big 12 hoops scheduling.
According to the CBS report, Big 12 teams will continue a nine-game conference schedule which will feature a temporary rotation that would allow all 14 teams to play each other within that two-year period. According to Dodd, there will be permanent opponents set for both seasons that would keep key rivalries from being interrupted. So expect two more years of Bedlam, OU-Texas, etc.
The Big 12 will not impose divisions, at least during this two-year transition, but “it may revisit such a split in 2025 when the league moves back to 12 members.”
OU-Texas Sticking It Out?
The most interesting part of the CBS report is how it colors in the role of FOX when it comes to an early OU-Texit. There has been plenty of speculation that the two bell cow schools might bolt for the greener pastures of the SEC before the Big 12’s current media rights deal. This would, of course, open them up to exponentially more penalty fees as part of the grand of rights, but the two schools’ budgets, plus the bigger dollar pie pieces in the SEC made it seem like more of a possibility.
ESPN, which will own exclusive rights to the SEC when OU and Texas join, would stand the most to gain if the two schools left early. Last year, former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby issued a cease and desist letter, alleging that ESPN conspired to break up the Big 12 in order to get those extra two helmet stickers over to SEC faster.
But according to information gathered by Dodd, FOX still holds some sway in the matter.
Fox would likely have demanded a return to make its future programming whole, including a top-tier selection of games years into the future given the marquee programs would have left its airwaves early. That’s beyond what would have been a potentially massive early exit fee the programs would have needed to pay the Big 12 directly.
That’s no guarantee that the two schools don’t find a way to head east early, but with the remaining years passing and these additional hurdles, it seems more likely that the league will include both the Sooners and the Longhorns through 2025.
When the Big 12’s current media deal does expire, both ESPN and FOX will factor into the negotiations.