Temple on Big 12’s list to interview

The university is one of 20 schools seeking to join the major conference.

On July 19, the Big 12 Conference announced it would consider adding schools to its 10-team league.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported on Aug. 16 that at least 20 schools would conduct video interviews with the Big 12 in order to make their case for joining the conference.

One of those 20 teams is Temple. Ten other schools in the American Athletic Conference will also interview with the Big 12. The only schools that won’t interview are Tulsa and Navy, who only competes in football. Brigham Young University, Boise State University and Colorado State University top the list of candidates outside The American.

Temple has an obvious financial interest in joining the league.

Athletic Director Pat Kraft spoke candidly on the topic to the Inquirer in August at American Athletic Conference media day.

“There is a lot of money at stake, that is the reality of it,” Kraft told the Inquirer on Aug. 3.

Forbes.com valued the Big 12 as the third most valuable conference in 2016, trailing only the Southeastern Conference and the Big 10 Conference. The Big 12 drew in $113 million from the College Football Playoff and bowl games and $19 million from the men’s basketball NCAA tournament.

The American ranked sixth most valuable after drawing in $30 million from college football’s postseason and $19 million from the men’s basketball NCAA tournament.

The Big 12’s television contract is also much larger than The American’s. The Big 12’s 13-year contract with ABC/ESPN and FOX is worth an average of $200 million per year, ESPN.com reported. In contrast, The American reported $19.1 million in television and radio revenue for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

If Temple played in the Big 12, the Owls would also face off against historic programs like the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma every year. This summer the football team announced a series with Oklahoma, which has the fifth-best all-time winning percentage, starting in the 2024 season.

When the men’s basketball team played the University of Kansas in 2014, more than 11,000 people filed into the Wells Fargo Center to watch the event. That’s more than the 10,472 attendance total for Temple’s game against Villanova earlier this year when the Wildcats were the top-ranked team in the country.

University of Oklahoma President and Big 12 Chairman David Boren told cincinnati.com that the Big 12 will review the strength of athletic program, fan base, media market, reputation and academic standards when evaluating candidates.

The strength of an athletic program is usually defined by its football team. While Temple’s football program showed great strides last year with a 10-win season and a national ranking at times, other schools have programs far more established.

BYU, Boise State, Houston and Cincinnati have all been ranked multiple times over the past 10 years.

Temple’s fan base has been inconsistent. The football team had average crowds of 44,159 in 2015, 23,370 in 2014 and 22,473 in 2013. The average attendance for the Big 12 in the past three years is 57,941.

Those making a case for Temple to join the conference point to the Philadelphia television market as the strongest selling point to the Big 12.

Nielsen Media, an American research company whose television ratings system is used worldwide, estimates Philadelphia as the fourth largest media market in the country. Philadelphia ranks higher than the two largest markets within the Big 12’s geographic parameters—No. 5 Dallas-Fort Worth and No. 10 Houston.

Larry Atkins, an adjunct journalism professor at Temple, wrote about the topic for the Huffington Post in May.

“The most important quality of any potential addition to the Big 12 is the size of the television market,” Atkins wrote. “This was the main reason that the Big 10 admitted Rutgers a few years ago. Temple blows most of the other candidates away on this criteria.”

It is unclear what Boren means by reputation, but Temple’s football program has never been placed on NCAA probation.

Temple’s academics standards are on par with Big 12 schools. The average rank in U.S. News & World Report for Big 12 schools in 2016 was 115.5. Temple ranked 115. This past season Temple had four teams rank first in The American in all-academic selections. Four others, including the football team, ranked second.

There is no definite timeline for the conference’s expansion, but Iowa State president Steven Leath, who is one of the league’s board of directors, told the Iowa State Daily the Big 12 will make a decision on expansion before Christmas.

Owen McCue can be reached at owen.mccue@temple.edu.

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