Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said he believes the Big 12 Conference has the opportunity to be as strong as any league in the country.
Think that’s funny? Hocutt would understand if you do.
“I recognize that people can take a lot of comic relief in that statement,” Hocutt said. “But I truly believe that we can have a strong future. People are going to be critical of us for the foreseeable future, and that’s a position we put ourselves in. I think we can pull ourselves out, too.”
The Missouri Board of Curators on Tuesday night authorized chancellor Brady Deaton to explore membership in another conference. Deaton subsequently resigned from the Big 12’s board of directors.
Should Missouri leave the embattled Big 12, it would be the fourth school to do so in the last 16 months, following the departures of Nebraska to the Big Ten, Colorado to the Pac-12 and, most recently, Texas A&M to the SEC.
Hocutt said he wasn’t surprised by Missouri’s announcement but is “obviously disappointed.”
“I’m hopeful that our future will include Missouri,” Hocutt said. “But if they decide that they want to go somewhere else, I still believe the Big 12 Conference will have a strong future.”
Hocutt said he would like to see commitments that go beyond the verbal pledges of unity that dampen every time a school seeks alternative conference affiliation.
The Big 12 is currently asking members to sign over to the league its first- and second-tier television rights for six years.
“The commitments have to be different from what they were in the past,” Hocutt said. “I believe that the assignment of rights will be different than what this league has ever done before. When you assign your rights to your conference, your television rights, that is a long-term commitment. That is what is different this time around. Pending that we can get to that point.”
The six-year window takes the Big 12 past the expiration of its tier one television agreement with ABC.
“Since we’ve gone beyond that expiration,” Hocutt said, “I believe the hope is that that would be extended at some point in the future for an extended period of time.”
Just how long is unclear, Hocutt said, but the length of the conference’s next television agreement would be a starting point.
Once there is conference stability, the Big 12 can begin considering growth.
Hocutt said whether the conference intends to add one, two or four members is yet to be determined and won’t be decided until Missouri commits to the Big 12 or elsewhere.
In any event, the Big 12 has plenty of interested suitors, but Hocutt declined to identify any at this point.
“We’ve got to get our house in order,” he said. “We’re not to that point yet. Even with that said, there’s a tremendous number of schools that have expressed interest in the Big 12 Conference. Competitively we’re one of the strongest leagues in the country. Our viewership is strong and we’ve got great television partners.”
Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas was Hocutt’s first boss at the College Football Association, and Hocutt said the two talk regularly.
Neinas is currently in the process of visiting each Big 12 campus to talk to university officials.
Hocutt said Neinas has initiated a number of studies and is seeking opinions to determine what the right number of schools for the Big 12 would be “from a value standpoint and from a television partner standpoint.”
“He’s providing exactly what this league needs at this time,” Hocutt said.
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