The Big 12 decided Monday not to expand from 10 teams. Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said it's because the conference doesn't want to dilute its value.
Pollard explained the conference chose to remain at 10 teams because adding teams that may not be able to compete with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma could "clutter up the process" of expansion in the future. Adding teams that would prove non-competitive could force Texas and Oklahoma, the two highest-profile schools in the conference, to seek membership elsewhere. That, in Pollard's opinion, would make the Big 12 no better than the Mountain West Conference.
"We've got two star players, whether people want to like that or not, Texas and Oklahoma," Pollard said Tuesday in an interview with Des Moines radio station KXNO. "I'm glad to be on a team that's got two great players. We benefit from being on that team. We could go play on a team and be the star, but then people would be saying 'how do you get us in one of those Power Five conferences Mr. AD?'"
Pollard said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby "was kind of forced into having to go through this process."
"When you know that the athletic administrators think that the best solution is the solution we currently have," Pollard said, "why would we then want to say no we'd rather have 12 members? Because we want to add more schools to this league that are going to be like Rutgers or Boston College in their conferences? Which have no fans coming to the games, and they're getting outscored 170 to whatever it was. In Boston College's case, haven't won a game in two to three years in their conference. That totally dilutes your value."
The Big 12 was pushed into the expansion process after being left out of the national championship picture in 2014 because the league lacked a conference championship game and had co-conference champions in TCU and Baylor. The Big 12 was reduced to 10 teams after Missouri and Texas A&M left in 2012 to join the SEC.
The Big 12 lost its conference championship game, but it will return after the NCAA passed legislation allowing conferences with fewer than 12 teams to hold a conference title game.
An ESPN report Tuesday cited a 714-word league memo that said the Big 12 was not "psychologically disadvantaged" because it didn't expand.
While the Big 12 said its decision not to expand was unanimous, the ESPN report disputed that claim. Pollard said there was not a vote taken because it was a consensus agreement among school presidents, though the athletic directors were not in the room.
"When presidents get in a room and read the tea leaves that it's going the way it's going, they go with it," a source told ESPN. "Even if there were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 [schools in favor of expansion], those presidents are very skilled in seeing the inevitability of the outcome and aligning on the right side of history. It's pretty easy to get comfortable with that position and stick to it."
Pollard understands how the conference's process looked, calling it "a mockery" for outsiders.
"I think the best thing that could happen for the Big 12, is that everybody who's talking about what they think they know is the right answer to quit talking about it, and just let the ADs go do what they need to do," Pollard said. "I think it's fair to say that a lot more money will be coming into the Big 12 over the next eight years. The league is really strong. Everybody just wants to beat it up.
"I guarantee as it appears today, somebody's not going to get in the College Football Playoff this year. If it's a Big 12 team, I can guarantee somebody's going to say 'it's because the Big 12 didn't expand.' I guarantee that will be the narrative, because it's an easy narrative to pick on. But I'd remind them, it's never quite as clear as any of us would like it to be."