May 22, 2012

Sources: ACC schools starting to put out feelers to Big 12

Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Miami have all made informal contact with colleagues in the Big 12 to gauge interest in possible expansion, two sources in the Big 12 told Tuesday.

"It appears the Big 12-SEC announcement with regard to a postseason bowl game has set the ACC on its ear," one key Big 12 source said. "There's been no formal contact from schools in the ACC. But there has been contact."

One source put the odds of expansion in the Big 12 at "55 to 60 percent" with Notre Dame at the top of the list, followed by Florida State, then Clemson, Virginia Tech and Miami.

But another source said it's too early to determine if the Big 12 would expand to 11, 12, 14 or if at all. The Big 12 has its annual meetings in Kansas City beginning May 30.

"I don't see anything really heating up until mid-June or even the end of June, when the format for a four-team playoff gets finalized," the source said. "But then it could get interesting."

Multiple sources said Texas would like to see if Notre Dame would move its non-football sports out of the Big East and into the Big 12 before the Big 12 entertains the idea of adding any other potential targets. But it's unclear how many schools in the league share that view.

Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas told Monday that if the Big East could accommodate Notre Dame's non-football sports, then the Big 12 could, too, if the Irish were looking to move. reported last fall that a proposal had been made to Notre Dame to bring its non-football sports to the Big 12 while remaining independent in football.

That proposal would have the Irish play up to six games per year against Big 12 competition while serving out its NBC TV contract, which runs through the 2015 season.

The Irish are already exploring their own third-tier network and could continue that exploration in the Big 12, sources said.

Louisville got strong consideration from the Big 12 when it added West Virginia as its 10th member, in part, because of the working relationship of Oklahoma president David Boren, a former U.S. senator, and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Louisville now appears to be down the list of consideration by the Big 12. An internal study by the Big 12 looking at what value would be added by bringing in Big East holdovers Louisville or Cincinnati did not come back favorably for those schools, sources said.

A few sources pointed out the irony of the current situation if schools in the ACC with a strong football brand start to seriously consider a move to the Big 12. Last September, when Boren announced Oklahoma was looking at all of its conference options, Texas explored the possibility of trying to land in the ACC.

But a package of Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State didn't excite the ACC, according to sources. The ACC was concerned about preserving its East Coast identity; was concerned about Texas' Longhorn Network causing too much disruption in revenue sharing; and would have preferred a package of Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas if it was going to take any Big 12 schools, sources said.

Shortly after, the ACC announced it was adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse, basically shutting down the possibility of adding any members from the Big 12. One year later, it's the Big 12 that has stabilized with a 13-year granting of television rights (to be announced next week as part of the Big 12's new Tier 1 television deal with ABC/ESPN), while the ACC may have unrest.

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