For Kansas State president Kirk Schulz, inviting TCU to join the Big 12 represented a major step for the conference.
After dealing with all the negative publicity that has surrounded the Big 12 in the ongoing conference realignment shuffle, he thinks the Horned Frogs will bring both a sense of stability and confidence to the league as it moves forward.
“We feel so great about the addition of TCU to the Big 12 Conference,” Schulz said. “I think it’s a great change to be on the offensive and be out there talking in a positive way about the future of the conference instead of worrying about whether it’s going to break up in a number of years.”
Schulz, who serves as the chair of the Big 12’s expansion committee, played a key role in that process. Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said the expansion committee had been re-actived only earlier this week. It didn’t take long for it to take action.
Combined with the conference’s announcement that its members have agreed to equally share their first and second tier TV revenue, pledged a formal grant of television rights for a minimum of six years and decided not to show high school games or highlights in any form on Tier 3 networks, and it’s been a productive day for the Big 12.
“This puts us in a great position for the future,” Schulz said.
But two questions remain.
1. Will Missouri stay in the Big 12?
2. Will the Big 12 continue expanding?
Here was Schulz’s answer to the first question:
“We continue to be encouraging Missouri that we want them to continue being a member of the Big 12,” Schulz said. “I think the rights package, the equal revenue sharing and the addition of TCU are all strong, positive steps that I hope will make a big difference in Missouri’s decision, which I ultimately believe will be to stay in the Big 12.”
The second question is more complicated. Schulz said some within the Big 12 favor remaining a 10-team conference, while others want to continue expanding to 12 or even 14 teams.
“Should we stay at 10, go to 12 or go to 14?” Schulz said. “That will continue to be a discussion the subcommittee has. I don’t think there has been a decision made. Some institutions are comfortable staying where we are. There will be some that think we should be bigger. We’ll continue to watch the college landscape and be in a position to respond quickly if need be.”
Schulz would not comment when asked what other schools the Big 12 might consider if further expansion is needed. But he did talk about what the expansion committee would look for.
Everything from academic quality, academic fit, athletic success, athletic facilities and student-athlete graduation rates will be factors. So will location and the TV markets.
In the case of TCU, Schulz said its location within the current Big 12 footprint was important. Big 12 presidents wanted to minimize travel time for their Olympic sports, and Fort Worth is an easy trip for every one. With future expansion candidates, he said location may not be as large a factor.
“When we’ve talked to our media consultants, they’ve really stressed the number of TV sets isn’t as critical as adding quality schools that people might want to watch on television,” Schulz said. “That’s what we want to get. We want to make sure that we add schools that our fan base and our alumni and our presidents and athletic directors will say, ‘Hey, this is a great team to have in our conference.’ That will continue to be the key in looking for future additions to the Big 12.”
So far, only TCU has met that criteria.
“At the end of the day, when we put all those things together, TCU came out as our number one choice,” Schulz said. “It was a pretty easy decision to extend an invitation for them to join the conference.”