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Big 12 Expansion TV Impact: Adding Deck Chairs to the Titanic

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There isn’t much to see when looking at the potential Big 12 Expansion candidates when it comes To media enhancement.

Scipio’s perfect description of the meh lineup of possible new members to the Big 12 says more than enough about the dull, reactionary leadership of the league. It is a quick way to force the network partners to live up a clause in the contract that says any new members added will cause the payout to be increased on a pro-rated basis. It is a money grab that ESPN will go along with because it is easier (and cheaper) than creating a Big 12 Network.

But why not sledgehammer the point with a little TV information?

It’s supposed to be about expanding the brand, right? Not with this group. Even taking into account the most attractive addition out there.

BYU

The Cougars represent the best expansion option by a mile. They’re actually a solid 7. Frankly, they offer more than half of the current Big 12 members. A legitimate national fanbase and legitimately expansive television market, good athletic teams in revenue sports, a big-time football environment (stadium capacity would be 3rd in the league), and prolonged athletic success (football is 93-37 over last ten years, hoops consistently competitive) that has been coaching agnostic. As a value add, it’s an enjoyable road trip (at least if you favor the great outdoors over tailgating).

Been to a couple of games out there and it is a fantastic setting. A wonderful September non-conference trip. BYU is a legitimate TV attraction, it just isn’t a major national draw.

The Cougars opened their 2015 season on ABC against Nebraska. 3.3 million viewers tuned in to see BYU connect on a last-second Hail Mary pass to beat the Cornhuskers 33-28. The win was the first opening day loss for Nebraska since 1985. It was also the most-watched game BYU played in 2015.

The Cougars schedule had a bit of cross-pollination, as they played several other teams being bandied about as possible expansion candidates.

Sat. Sept. 12 BYU-Boise State 1.0 million ESPN2

Friday Oct. 2 BYU-UCONN 1.2 million ESPN

Friday Oct. 16 BYU-Cincinnati 1.5 million ESPN

Not much too see.

I thought about going through all of the possible candidates, but it was just too depressing. So let’s cut to the chase.

Houston

Long championed by parochial hoopleheads who can’t distinguish a coach who will be gone in two years from lasting program infrastructure (how did that Baylor-Briles thing work out? In fact, how did that Houston-Briles thing work out?), the Cougars are a commuter school with an indifferent fanbase set in a city that looks to Caracas for its zoning laws and Bangladesh for its climate. The conceit that they deliver the Houston media market is amusing and last year’s BCS team played to rowdy crowds of empty seats in a 40,000 seat stadium.

Strengthen the league on the field and in a major market !

Yeah, not so much.

Houston had a fantastic season in 2015, and didn’t appear on a widely distributed TV network until October 8th. Their games with Louisville and Tulsa were seen on lightly distributed regional networks (ACC/Raycom & CBS Sports Net), and they didn’t appear on ESPN at all.

Thur. Oct. 8 Houston-SMU 355K 7:00 PM ESPN2

Friday Oct. 16 Houston-Tulane 185K 8:00 pm ESPN2

Saturday Oct. 24 Houston-UCF 171K 11:00 AM ESPNEWS

Saturday Oct. 31 Houston-Vanderbilt 390K 6:00 PM ESPN2

Sat. Nov. 7 Houston-Cincinnati 396K 2:00 pm ESPN2

Sat. Nov 14 Houston-Memphis 750K 6:00 pm ESPN2

Sat. Nov. 21 Houston-UConn 375K 2:30 pm ESPNU

Fri. Nov 27 Houston-Navy 3.1million 11:00 AM ABC

Sat. Dec. 5 Houston-Temple 2.5m 11:00 AM ABC

The last two contests, on national TV drew decent numbers, but even playing for a BCS slot the game drew Oklahoma State/Texas Tech numbers. They are not going to enhance the national draw of the Big 12.

But what about the Houston Market? The Big 12 will own it !!!

Yeah, not so much.

Houston is a pro town. First and foremost the Houston Texans. Then the Rockets and Astros. David Barron of the Houston Chronicle went to the trouble to get a list of the 100 most-watched sports programs in Houston in 2015.

There wasn’t a single regular season college football game on the list. Not a one.

An astounding 73 of the top 100 sports programs were from the NFL. Obviously the Houston Texans are a major draw (12 of the Top 20) but the games popularity runs deep. NFL contests held 39 of the top 40 programs – with only a Houston Rocket playoff game breaking the streak.

The Houston-Navy and the AAC Championship game against Temple drew good numbers in Houston — but even then, Houston never played in a game that was the most-watched collegiate contest in their home city that particular week.

Texas had the most-watched game four times. Texas A&M, Baylor, OU and Notre Dame twice. Alabama played in the most-watched game of the week five times.

With the exception of BYU, there is no one on the expansion list that moves the needle any more than an Oklahoma State or Kansas State.

This expansion is a stupid, short-sighted, reactionary money grab. The only saving grace would be that the Grant of Rights contract is not extended and Texas is gone in 2025.