ORANGE PRATTLE: Oklahoma State should unhitch from Big 12 before it's too late

·3 min read

Jul. 28—Oklahoma State has found itself in a very interesting place less than a month before the new school year.

With Oklahoma and Texas bolting the Big 12 Conference for the SEC, Oklahoma State finds itself as the premiere athletic department in the future of the Big 12.

That's not conjecture. That's fact.

In last year's Learfield College Director's Cup — which bases the postseason performances for all sports in an athletic department — Oklahoma State found itself second among the 10-team league, behind only Texas, which won the Cup.

However, money talks.

That's why the Big 12 finds itself in its current state.

Oklahoma State trails the likes of Kansas — by approximately $30 million based on finances in the 2018-19 school year — and West Virginia — with a closer gap of just $7 million in the same data — in total revenue, while having similar revenue numbers as Texas Tech and Iowa State among the public universities.

But Oklahoma State has a greater value among the remaining parts of the Big 12.

Oklahoma State athletics has a competitive advantage across it's entire athletic department.

Of course football is going to drive the cart in conference realignment, and while OSU's revenue doesn't look as lucrative as others in the Big 12, it has the most consistent football program of those caught by surprise under the recent events.

And if conference commissioners across the country are looking at the landscape of TV and streaming, they will be looking beyond the TV market numbers that drove conference realignment a decade ago. Fewer households are shelling out for cable, and streaming is becoming a battle for viewers with an oversaturated industry.

So, the best way to get eyes on games in the changing landscape of technology is to provide quality competition to draw in casual sports fans.

That's where Oklahoma State can add to the other Power 5 Conferences.

The problem with keeping with the Big 12, is that the competition — either with the eight remaining or just by adding a few Group of 5 programs — will compare more to a Group of 5 football season. And because of that, when the Big 12's media right's contract expires in 2025, it won't have the resume to demand more — or even the same — in regard to TV rights dollars.

In essence, unless the Big 12 is able to somehow poach a big-name program from the Pac-12 or ACC — or hit a grand slam by somehow talking Notre Dame into shedding its independence and joining a wounded league — the conference is going to be the equivalent to a Group of 5 and only be able to demand the money similar to those "lower tier" conferences.

Which, in turn, means Oklahoma State, which is already lagging in revenue, could be faced with a scenario of an even smaller revenue stream from media rights.

To avoid that potential, the new administration must look beyond the Big 12 like other programs have already reported to be doing — with reports of Kansas and Iowa State having already worked back channels with the Big Ten.

Oklahoma State has an opportunity to get ahead of the likely demise of the Big 12 now that OU and UT have delivered the death-blow, and must act swiftly. Otherwise, OSU may find itself as the last one holding the door and have lost any leverage in courting a new conference suitor.

Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at jelmquist@stwnewspress.com.

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