The Big 12 was one of three Power Five conferences to cash in on a lucrative media rights deal in the past year, and the deal played a large role in the conference’s recent expansion plans.

As it stands, the Big 12 is locked into deals with ESPN and FOX to broadcast its football and basketball games through the 2031 basketball season when the conference’s current deal expires in 2025.

But there could be some flexibility down the road.

“In our recent TV negotiations, which obviously were concluded about a year ago – we gave ourselves some optionality when you think about our back-end rights,” Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said at Big 12 Basketball Media Days. “Not only to renew in the traditional format, but also to potentially break apart basketball from football.”

Currently, all Power Five conferences have media rights deals that delegate broadcasting rights for both football and basketball games to specific media outlets, with football rights driving most of the bargain.

So, why would two separate deals make sense for the Big 12?

Part of the reason is because of the conference’s recent success on the basketball court. In 2022-23, 70% of the Big 12 reached the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which was the highest rate of the Power Five schools. On the women’s side, 60% (also the most in the country) of Big 12 schools made the tournament.

If there is a way to extrapolate dollars out of a basketball-specific deal with the conference’s current partners, Yormark will consider it.

“I think my job as commissioner, our job as a conference office is to explore all options, and to further monetize what we do, and to create value for our member institutions,” he said. “So, if the situation presents itself where we can create more value by decoupling football from basketball, we’ll pursue it, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to do it. It’s all about the value equation. At least we have the optionality to pursue that if we feel that’s appropriate.”

According to Business of College Sports Big 12 schools will receive about half as much ($31.7 million) in average yearly payouts as Big Ten ($71.875) and SEC ($68.75) will in their new deals. It’s possible that the sum of two independent deals for basketball and football could narrow that gap.