Big 12 Expansion Efforts Resemble Reality Television – Why Is the Big 12 Conference Brad Womack-ing the Bearcats? 

There are a few things that bring me pride.  Raising three beautiful sons. Graduating from law school. Making the occasional difference in my community.  However, being a grown man and also knowing that Brad Womack was twice a contestant on ABC’s The Bachelor – not something I’m proud to admit.

For those of you who don’t know Brad Womack, he was a contestant on Seasons 11 and 15 of The Bachelor.  As an unwilling male viewer of the show (stop rolling your eyes), I quite enjoyed Mr. Womack because he was a stone cold savage.  Before Brad Womack’s Season 11 appearance, the show’s farsical (yet-bizarrely-feigning-reality) pattern was as follows:

  1. The Bachelor meets numerous contestants, which are typically dime pieces (hereinafter, the “dimes”).
  2. The Bachelor takes said dimes on dates that he wouldn’t be able to afford without ABC’s obscene budget.
  3. Based on economic scarcity principles and the low self esteem unconsciously imposed by the show’s format, the dimes believe that The Bachelor is the man of their dreams.
  4. The dimes fight with other dimes; hijinks ensue.
  5. Eventually two dimes emerge as the proverbial “belles of ball,” and The Bachelor is torn between the two.
  6. The Bachelor chooses one of the dimes – the one that every male viewer knew would win at the beginning of the show, but was afraid to acknowledge to his significant other (“I guess she’s pretty…if you’re into the leggy supermodel type.”).
  7. The Bachelor proposes to one of the dimes, and the show pretends the couple stands a chance of making it.
  8. Inevitably, tabloids begin sharing stories of The Bachelor hunting for his next trophy hook-up at big city watering holes.
  9. The fetching couple circles the drain for a bit, then shoots an intervention episode with Chris Harrison (the series’ host), and finally calls it quits after accusing each other of some form of emotional abuse.
  10. ABC keeps making more seasons of The Bachelor and printing money.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 

However, Brad Womack disrupted the format.  He used his charm to string a couple of dimes along, all the way to the end of the show, only to tell both of the unsuspecting gals that he just wasn’t that into either of them.  For Season 11 of The Bachelor, there would be no winner to the game show.  Train wreck linked here

Stone.  Cold.  Savage. 

In other words, he took the format of the show, the well-trodden history and traditions, the social pressure to choose a winner and propose, the emotion and dignity of the two dimes, and unilaterally declared it to be beneath him.  

All of it. 

Sorry, America.  Sorry, suburban moms.  Sorry, dimes.  I’m Brad “Damn” Womack.

As a reality television contrarian, I loved it.  I admired the moxie. Lately, however, I’ve observed that the Big 12 expansion process has started to resemble reality television – namely, Season 11 of The Bachelor. I’m growing concerned for the hearts of Bearcats faithful. 

Obviously in this scenario, the Big 12 Conference is Brad “Damn” Womack and the University of Cincinnati is one of the dimes, seemingly one of the final two contestants. 

There’s been plenty of dates. Former UC President Santa Ono has visited every Big 12 school and flirted with every University President. Multiple public records requests made by Cincinnati media and other Big 12 media members have revealed substantive and ongoing discussions between the member schools and UC. In addition, UC went so far as to hire relationship brokers (Think: sports lobbyists) and consultants to send sexy sales materials highlighting the benefits of adding the Bearcats.  It makes you wonder – what’s a girl University gotta do?

The Money Is Right!

When you consider the economics of expansion, it’s difficult to understand why the Big 12 is reluctant to invite and sign with UC. Just this week, numerous accounts were written indicating that ESPN and FOX Sports are trying to play spoiler in expansion efforts. Why?  Simple – the student athlete greed. 

If the Big 12 Conference adds four new schools to its membership, the Conference could greatly increase its annual revenue, pursuant to the “pro rata clause” in the media rights contract between the Big 12 and ESPN and FOX Sports. Under the pro rata clause, if the Conference adds new members then those networks are obligated to pony up an additional $23MM per new member each year through 2025, regardless of whether the new member schools provide a good return on that investment. This year, Big 12 member schools received a $30.4MM distribution of revenue from their existing deal and members were allowed to retain additional revenue from side media deals. Texas, for example, will make an additional $15MM from just the Longhorn Network (raising their cumulative total revenue from media to around $45MM).

The existing Big 12 media deal trails only the Big 10 and SEC.  If, however, the Big 12 adds new members, the mandatory pro rata payment obligations will be triggered. That, in turn, will provide the Big 12 Conference with leverage to: (A) renegotiate a better media rights deal for existing members, or (B) require new members to forego their claim to a portion of the pro rata $23MM annual distribution so that existing members can gain ground on their Big Ten and SEC counterparts.  

Do I think UC would agree to send a portion of its pro rata distribution of $23MM back to member schools?  Would any of the dimes have been willing to sign a prenuptial agreement to win Season 11 of The Bachelor, regardless of the terms?  

Yes – to both. 

Presently, UC gets $3-10MM from its American Athletic Conference media deal. Any additional amount of media money above that figure would be very, very helpful. And let’s not forget, the bump in prestige and pride of being included in the Big 12 would generate more fundraising dollars, ticket sales, and merchandise sales.  UC fans are far more likely to show up to watch the Bearcats line up against Texas as opposed to facing the likes of USF…UCF…Tulane…Temple…and on and on and on. Everyone, including UC and existing Big 12 members, gets rich off the addition of UC.  

UC Makes the Big 12 Great Again!

Hey, we get it – you are the Big “Damn” 12 and you don’t “need” UC. But wouldn’t your conference life be richer (explained above) and fuller (explained below) with UC in it?

Here are a few data points on the University of Cincinnati that may have been read but never fully considered…

  • UC’s enrollment is around 45,000, and has increased steadily over time.  
  • Academically, UC continues to move up in numerous rankings and the Lindner College of Business is poised to build a $120MM building to accommodate its growth as a magnet for students the world over. 
  • UC is situated in the No. 36 television market in the country, and is home to corporate behemoths Kroger, Macy’s, and Procter & Gamble. 
  • UC has routinely been listed as one of the world’s most beautiful campuses by Forbes.
  • There is only one other large college in the city and they’ve never been significant enough to field a football team (See: Xavier). 
  • UC has 22 former players on NFL rosters.  One of those players, Travis Kelse of the Kansas City Chiefs, is about to drop the most epic dating show of all time – Catching Kelse on E!.
  • UC just saw a 29% increase in attendance after renovating its football stadium.  The city will explode with anticipation at the prospect of lining up across from the Sooners (instead of the Green Wave – that’s Tulane’s mascot for the non-AAC battle-hardened).
  • While UC’s Nippert Stadium only seats 40,000, its capacity could be increased to seat up to 55,000 (10,000 more than TCU and Baylor). 
  • By the way, have you been to a game at Nippert Stadium?  The setting is spectacular.  The Stadium is tucked in the center of campus, surrounded by classically-red-bricked buildings and modern architectural marvels. 
  • UC makes a convenient, albeit embittered, travel partner for West Virginia.  On the one hand, Cincinnati is a manageable drive from Morgantown, WV.  On the other hand, most of the Bearcats faithful despise Mountaineer fans.  We used to beat up on them back in the Big East days, and they took a dim view of our meteoric rise in athletic prowess.  The rivalry will take little to revive.
  • In the last decade, the Bearcats have captured five conference titles (even when “mighty” WVU was in the conference) and played in two BCS bowl games.  The Bearcats have only been bowl ineligible one season in the past ten years (Thanks, Butch Jones!). 
  • Lane Kiffin has never coached at the University of Cincinnati, which ought to be a serious selling point for any expansion candidate. 
  • Many other marvelous coaches have coached at UC, including present head coaches Mick Cronin and Tommy Tuberville (by way of Texas Tech, you may recall).
  • The prospects of a Tuberville v. Tech matchup, by itself, could generate a hefty bump in media revenue for all member schools. That game, should it develop, must be called the “Tuberbowl” (trademark courtesy of Bearcats Sports Radio).
  • I know basketball isn’t supposed to matter, but it should! UC consistently makes the NCAA tournament, and has a rich tradition of excellence (2 national championships, 6 final fours, 8 elite eights, 10 sweet sixteens, 29 tourney appearances, and 38 conference championships). Can you imagine adding the Bearcats to the top end of Big 12 basketball talent? 

I am biased and fully appreciate that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Without equivocation, I think UC is a marvelous school, in a beautiful city, with tremendous upside. That said, the Big 12 stands to benefit even more by planting a member school flag in Ohio…

Because Screw Ohio State!

Maybe the most underrated reason for the Big 12 to add UC as a member is to screw with Ohio State. When it comes to market share of Midwest recruiting talent, Urban Meyer and Ohio State has had a stranglehold on three, four and five star recruits. That could be stopped, or at least diluted, if the Big 12 were to expand its footprint into Ohio. 

Please don’t mishear me.  I am not suggesting that Ohio State will experience a mass exodus from recruits, preferring the Bearcats to the Buckeyes.  Instead, the Big 12’s geographic expansion and UC’s proportionate rise in prestige could be dilutive to Urban’s Ohio monopoly. Pay attention Texas and Oklahoma fans. 

In the past, if you were a big Ohio recruit, the only in-state option for a nationwide platform was Ohio State. Post-expansion, that changes – Ohio players could compete in regular season home games against Oklahoma and Texas on Ohio soil.  Maybe, just maybe, that would allow UC to pull recruits that otherwise would’ve chosen to ride the pine in Columbus. In turn, Ohio State would have less depth, which weakens the Buckeyes (TX/OK fans – “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”). 

In addition to Cincinnati’s post-expansion impact on the recruiting market, there’s even more upside for existing Big 12 schools.  Post-expansion, if you’re a big Ohio recruit, you can go watch schools like Texas and Oklahoma play regular season away games in Cincinnati. And those same recruits would know that, if they played for those programs, local friends and family could come to at least one game a year with just a short drive to Cincinnati or Morgantown. 

In sum, the Big 12 should expand to include the Bearcats because…screw Ohio State. 

When it comes to wooing the Big “Damn” 12, I’m not sure how much more dolled up UC needs to get so the Conference will offer UC a rose an invitation. UC has big time coaches in place in football and basketball. UC recently renovated its football stadium and the basketball arena is up next. The Big 12 has flirted, teased, and led the Bearcats faithful to believe the Conference was interested, above all the other schools desiring admission. I know the Conference is getting pressure from every governor of nearly every state in the union, including Texas. That said, the Bearcats faithful are counting on the Big 12 to do the right thing. 

Please don’t “Brad Womack” us?

If, however, the Big 12 has just been leading UC on with no intention of extending an invitation, I can assure drama. Lots of it.  Cincinnati sports fans have endured numerous unwarranted and unanticipated offenses for decades. If the Bearcats are not selected, this realignment will end up being the most dramatic rose ceremony ever. 

By Brian Fox

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