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The Big 12 Is Not Waiting Quietly During Latest Conference Shuffle

July 21, 2022
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Mack Rhoades sought rest and relaxation, a well-deserved vacation following a crucially important year for Baylor athletics and college sports. But the more things change, the more they remain the same, leading us to the latest tumultuous chapter in college's football realignment saga. 

Last summer, Rhoades sought a break, believing the Big 12 was in great shape before the Big 1-2's "exit" for the SEC was stunningly revealed, subsequently heaving the conference's future into uncertainty. Veteran commissioner Bob Bowlsby responded aggressively and secured the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF, to stabilize the league. 

Rhoades sought a break again this summer, believing the Big 12's future was in great shape, before the Pac 12's Los Angeles duo revealed an "exit plan" for the Big Ten, heaving multiple conferences' futures into uncertainty. Incoming commissioner Brett Yormark responded aggressively by stating the Big 12 was open for business, which has led to speculation about possible additions like Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah, to stabilize the league. 

So, where does that leave the Big 12 at this point? 

"To coin a phrase you've heard before: We're open for business. I think everything's on the table," Rhoades said on SicEm 365 Radio this week, echoing recent comments by new commissioner Brett Yormark. "I think we're exploring our options, no different than I think what everybody else is doing. No different than what the SEC did last year, with what the Big Ten just did recently." 

Rhoades likened the current landscape to schools "running out ground balls" as they explore every potential avenue to increase value now and in the future. Of course, that includes mergers or alliances, but with any possible conference and network combos, there are tons of details to work through.

One option explored but eliminated? A full-on Pac-12 and Big 12 merger. That comes as little surprise given the logistics. 

"Those things, mergers of leagues and media mergers and scheduling alliances—and not saying that they can't happen and they won't happen—but those are those are things that are complicated to figure out for a lot of different reasons." Rhoades said. 

While the idea of schools and conferences supporting each other and maintaining the viability of every other P5 sounds nice, the reality is different.

"It just feels like that's probably very secondary right now. And, if you don't act, you're going to get acted upon. And right now, the Big 12, we're in this process of trying to act rather than the opposite."

Thanks to OU and Texas, and as an Arizona grad, Rhoades admittedly relates all too well to the uncomfortable feelings and uncertainty facing Pac-12 bases at the moment. Still, the Bears' AD recognized and made apparent realignment remains the survival of the fittest. And the Big 12 intends on surviving, once again, as they explore all options. 

Factors out of the league's control must also be settled to paint a clearer picture. Those factors include the terms and details of the Big Ten's new deal with FOX and other potential outlets. Elsewhere, what happens with the Notre Dame part of the equation? Are they still independent? 

"I think it remains to be seen what type of dominoes happen from here. And I think it's really hard to predict if any of those dominoes fall here within a short time, or, is it six to 12 months for it all to play out?," Rhoades said during his weekly visit with SicEm365 Radio. 

As for the future media outlook in the near and long term, Rhoades doesn't rule out the Big 12 partnering up with any of the networks or high-profile streaming services, including their current TV partners, despite any reported bad blood because of the OU-Texas debacle.  

"I would say that despite some things that have been written that there's really a healthy relationship between the Big 12 and our two current media partners, both ESPN and Fox. And I think that, there's a great chance that could continue beyond 2025." 

The realignment carousel might have slowed since the big news out of LA, but it hasn't stopped. Unfortunately, Rhoades and everyone else in college athletics seems to believe the pause is temporary, and college sports are in store for more shakeups.  

"I would tell you that I don't think it's over. And I think there'll be some additional changes. But when that happens … I think all of us are, we'd like to think we've got an idea of when that would happen, but we don't and you've got to be ready." 

More specifically, though, Rhoades concerns himself with maintaining the future in Waco. And his message is clear, the future remains bright if they stay the course, but as for past successes, the page turned, and the slate is wiped clean. The department and programs must continue growing, improving, and getting out of their comfort zones, especially in the face of uncertainty.  

"So, Sugar Bowl win, National Championship, all of those things, they're great. And it should be celebrated," Rhoades said Tuesday. "But those are done with and over with, and it's about what's in front of us. And then, we're going to have to continue to evolve and find ways to be better and continue to scratch and claw."

 
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