A vote from the Big 12 conference’s board of directors means a potential loss of millions of dollars of revenue for Baylor University, but in reality it will be little if any actual pain for Baylor.
Baylor Big 12 Revenue “Punishment” is Only a Public Relations Ploy
The Big 12 announced on Wednesday that the conference would withhold 25 percent of the revenue share that Baylor is entitled to as a member of the conference until an independent third party verifies that significant changes have been made at the school to curtail constant criminal activity and become compliant with Title IX.
While the NCAA is still probing into the mess of allegations of a culture within the Bears football program that fostered repeated sexual assaults on female students, it’s widely understood that the NCAA will have little power to penalize Baylor. There is no specific NCAA by-law that has been directly violated. The only possible angle at which the NCAA could come at Baylor from is giving preferential treatment to football players, and that could be challenged by the school easily.
Why the Big 12 Made the Decision
Perhaps it’s the inability of the NCAA to punish Baylor and the resulting public relations nightmare from a nationwide audience that has read about the scandals at Baylor but doesn’t understand that the NCAA isn’t a law enforcement agency, but rather a non-profit organization that regulates games, that the Big 12 has been worried about.
The Big 12 has stepped in, if only just to avoid having that public relations nightmare drop upon itself to the same extent. In order to nullify the penalty connected to this decision, all Baylor has to do is get an independent third party which is up to the board’s standard to sign off on its plan to improve the culture at the school. Baylor doesn’t have to actually implement any of the changes, or prove they are working over a period of time. All that’s necessary is for Baylor to get some firm that the Big 12 sees as reputable to give the thumbs up.
There’s another caveat here which must be understood. Regardless of how independent this third party is or how highly the Big 12 holds it in esteem, Baylor will still be the one signing the checks. The press release announced that while Baylor was not part of this decision, Baylor will pay for the third party review.
As part of a statement in response to the Big 12’s decision, Baylor President David E. Garland stated that the university had “already planned to hire an outside auditor to audit the implementation of our enhanced practices,” and, “we do not deem these actions to materially impact the overall financial position of the University.” He further confirmed those later sentiments by saying that, “we will work with the Big 12 Conference to conduct the audit as expeditiously as possible.”
There are two reasons why Garland doesn’t expect this decision to actually cost the school much. Those are:
- 75 percent of Baylor’s revenue share is still going to be awarded to the school, completely independent of this audit process.
- Garland admits that to some degree the wheels were already turning on this audit process. While Garland calls the withholding of revenue an “unexpected financial event,” it’s possible that Baylor might have known about this decision by the Big 12 to require the school to have the audit done, but not have known about the financial penalty. This is a matter of unconfirmed speculation, but it’s entirely possible that this “audit” could be nearly completely done already, and just waiting for some final signatures.
If the audit does actually take long enough to complete that it forces the Big 12 to back up its threat with action, Baylor does stand to lose millions of dollars. Big 12 member institutions got $30.4 million from the conference in 2016. A quarter of that would be 7.6 million. The payout in 2017 could be even higher, meaning that Baylor could lose out on $8-$9 million.
Even if that worst-case scenario plays out, however, Baylor will still get an estimated $26 million from the Big 12 next year without having to implement any changes, prove they are working, or even have this third party audit completed. Don’t hold your breath for that, however. This audit will be wrapped up quickly, and Baylor will get its full revenue share next year. The Big 12’s move is only a public relations ploy.