AD: Conference rumors premature

After the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences announced they were each looking to expand to 12 teams, talk of realignment started to sprout up all over the place. TCU Athletics Director Christopher Del Conte said any rumors of the university changing conferences are premature.

“I think people are growing weeds to pull; this is just the time of year where people are out looking at things and conjuring things up and this kind of took on a life of its own in the media,” Del Conte said. “It’s great water cooler conversation, but we’ve had no conversations on the athletic director side about any of that stuff.”

Del Conte said the conference has not held a meeting of its athletic directors and a meeting would not take place until May.

According to reports speculating realignment, Texas and Missouri are possible targets of the Big Ten, which could open a spot in the Big 12 for TCU. BYU and Utah are rumored to be targets of the Pac-10.

Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson told last week that he is concerned about the future of the conference.

“It is important to be cognizant of the changing landscape. We are continuing what has been an ongoing process of evaluating our options,” Thompson said. “However, we are not going to overreact to rumors and speculation.”

In light of the numerous reports that it would seek to expand, the Pac-10 Conference released a statement to address the rumors.

“The Pac-10 will be proactive in analyzing if expansion of the membership at some point would be in the best interests of the conference,” according to the statement. “We are in the early stages of that analysis and it would be premature to speculate at this point on any future plans we might pursue.”

Similarly, a Big Ten representative wrote in an e-mail that the conference had no further comment on expansion other than the statement it sent out in December. The statement was issued after a meeting of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) Dec. 6.

“The COP/C believes that the timing is right for the conference to once again conduct a thorough evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion. As a result, the commissioner was asked to provide recommendations for consideration by the COP/C over the next 12 to 18 months,” according to the statement. “The COP/C understands that speculation about the conference is ongoing.”

The statement went on to say that the Big Ten would not issue any further statements and that no action is expected by the COP/C “in the near term.”

A major motivator in changing conferences for any university could be monetary.

The bulk of the BCS money is distributed among the six conferences that are automatic qualifiers: the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC. Following the 2009 season, each school in the SEC and the Big Ten received a share of the $22.2 million per conference because the conferences had two schools each in BCS games. The schools in the other four conferences received $17.7 million to split amongst themselves.

Meanwhile, the five non-AQ conferences, encompassing 52 teams, split $24 million with TCU and Boise State. The number is only as high as it is because two non-AQ schools, TCU and BSU, were selected for a BCS game.

Aside from BCS money, television contracts are another major source of income the big six conferences have. According to the conference Web site, the Mountain West’s TV deal with CSTV, now CBS College Sports, pays it $120 million over 10 years.

MWC Associate Commissioner for Communications Javan Hedlund wrote in an e-mail that the conference’s contract with Versus could not be released.

By comparison, the SEC’s television contracts with CBS and ESPN will pay the conference more than $3 billion over the 15-year life of the deal, according to Sports Illustrated. The Big Ten has a 10-year $1 billion contract with ESPN on top of the 25-year $2.8 billion deal with the conference’s own network. The Big 12 will bring in $480 million over eight years in a contract with ABC/ESPN, plus $78 million in a deal with Fox Sports Net.

If the Pac-10 and the Big Ten expand, it could cause a domino effect in the Big 12 and Mountain West.

Staff writer Josh Davis contributed to this report.