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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 08 Big 12 Tournament

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark reaffirmed the conference’s interest in expansion Friday, highlighting a plan by league brass to identify and evaluate potential membership opportunities. Fresh off spring meetings in West Virginia, Yormark reiterated the desire to have a true nation-wide footprint — in whatever form that may take. 

“As I’ve said all along, we have an appetite to be a national conference in our makeup from coast to coast,” Yormark told reporters. “We love our current composition, love the four new schools who are coming in next month. However, if the opportunity presented itself to create value, we would pursue it.” 

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reports Colorado is engaged in “substantive” conversations with the Big 12. The Buffs make up one of the so-called Four Corners schools (along with Arizona, Arizona State and Utah) and are focal points of potential expansion, per Dodd. The Pac-12 has yet to sign a new television contract to replace its existing one, which expires in 2024. 

The most consistent framing from the Big 12 has involved the desire to enter the “fourth window” in order to broadcast late-night games. In the league’s lone escapade into the late game, BYU’s 26-20 win over Baylor in double-overtime drew the top ratings for a 10 p.m. ET game or later since 2016 with 2.4 million viewers. 

Basketball powers Gonzaga and UConn have also appeared on the Big 12’s radar in the past weeks, according to multiple reports. The Bulldogs do not have a football team, but Yormark expressed openness to take on a partial member. UConn plays FBS football as an independent after leaving the American Athletic Conference. It’s unclear whether the Huskies’ football program would also be invited. 

“We do see the upside in basketball moving forward,” Yormark said. “There’s a chance for us to double down as the No. 1 basketball conference in America. But football’s the driver and we all know that. We’re exploring all options and all considerations at this point.” 

The Big 12 also announced it distributed approximately $440 million in revenue across the 2021-22 fiscal year, good enough for $44 million per school. The average distribution ranks No. 3 among FBS conferences, trailing the SEC and Big Ten. 

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