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How Baylor Should React to Texas and Oklahoma Leaving the Big 12

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Hope is not lost

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Champions-Baylor Celebration Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, Texas and Oklahoma sent a letter announcing:

As I said last week, the goal for Texas and Oklahoma is for the Big 12 to implode with other members finding new homes. Then Texas and Oklahoma can depart next year for the SEC and avoid a massive exit fee.

One key:

Baylor’s best opportunity would be an ACC invite. I have zero idea if the ACC wants to add Baylor and TCU or some other combination that involves Baylor. The Bears and Horned Frogs are now an academic tier above any remaining Big 12 school, and they’d add Texas markets and a recruiting pipeline for some ACC schools.

The ACC may not extend an invite. The league has a grant of rights agreement through the middle of the 2030’s. Neither Baylor or TCU has a large alumni base, and with so many people cutting the cord, getting the ACC Network in Dallas or Houston is no longer a big consideration.

If the ACC and the other power five leagues snub Baylor, then the Bears position is dependent on what happens to everyone else. If the eight leftovers are also without a home, then the best bet is to probably add a couple of schools—whether BYU, UCF, Houston, Cincinnati or SMU—and then have a football league. That league will command significantly less money in the next television deal without Texas or OU. Even if ESPN pays more to avoid a legal dispute about enticing Texas and OU to the SEC—thereby destroying the Big 12—it’s going to be far less than the payout with the Longhorns and Sooners.

The leftovers could try and join the Big East in some basketball combination. Last week, I wrote:

First, Baylor could join the Big East in basketball and the American as a football only member. Given Baylor’s size and success in that league, the league might take Baylor as a football only member. The Big East is a great basketball league with Villanova, Georgetown and Creighton, so Baylor could keep it rolling in hoops. The 2021 Bears had one player from Texas (Matthew Mayer) among the top eight guys, so even if Texas recruiting takes a bit of a dip, Scott Drew and company could make up for it with a national brand in that league.

If the Big 12 has the eight leftovers, then those schools are in a strong position to negotiate with the Big East. The Big 12 could vote to dissolve as a basketball conference, then Baylor, TCU/ISU, KU, WVU and Oklahoma State could join the Big East in hoops. Kansas State and any remaining school would be apoplectic, but those schools would have little leverage, and they’d need to remain in the Big 12 in football.

The Big 12 could also just keep the eight leftovers, add two schools, and then wait for the GOR to expire in the Big East. Unless I’m missing a new deal with the addition of Connecticut, the Big East GOR expires in 2026. So the leftovers could play a season and then add Villanova, Connecticut, Creighton, Georgetown and Marquette. The Big 12 could also immediately add Gonzaga as a basketball only member. That 16 team league would be the best basketball conference in the country.

The worst case scenario is that Baylor ends up in the American in everything. Houston made the Final Four as a member. SMU, Cincinnati, Wichita State and UCF have won tournament games. So it’s not all lost in that league, but with a massive decline in revenue, Baylor should avoid that path.

Baylor would prefer to not be in this position. But as the defending national champs in basketball, and with a football program that played in the 2020 Sugar Bowl, the Bears have shown massive success from their investment in the two revenue sports. There’s a path to still be a major player in football and basketball.

Mack Rhoades and Linda Livingstone have navigated some difficult paths at the helm of Baylor. They didn’t ask for the mess Texit created. But they’ve led a university that’s had no problem dealing with Texas on the basketball court and has regularly been better in football. What’s one more challenge caused by Texas?