About an hour or so before kickoff at the Fiesta Bowl, Team Oklahoman got a visit in the press box from Tim Allen.
The man behind the Big 12 football schedule answered the day's most pressing question almost before we could ask it.
When will the schedule be out?
“Sometime before August,” he joked.
At least, I thought he was joking.
Now, I'm not so sure.
There was scuttlebutt coming from Lubbock on Thursday that the Big 12 was ready to release the schedule on Friday. Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told some reporters gathered there that it was going to happen.
Friday came and went without the schedule.
(As punishment, I propose Hocutt take us all to Cagle's for a steak next time we're in Lubbock.)
Granted, we largely know how the schedule is going to shake out next season. The slate that was proposed before Texas A&M and Missouri bolted for the SEC will likely be used but with TCU in place of A&M and West Virginia in place of Missouri.
And yet, we don't know for sure.
The hang-up, of course, is West Virginia. The Big East has taken the Mountaineers to court, trying to hold them to their contract and keep them from leaving until 2013.
A report Thursday in the Charleston Daily Mail said that West Virginia and the Big East had reached an agreement to settle their legal wrangling. The Big East will take a $20 million buyout — $11 million from West Virginia and $9 million from the Big 12 — and the Mountaineers will be free to go.
Here's the deal, though. The Big 12 is likely to go back and raid the Big East more in the next couple years. Louisville and Cincinnati are teams that have been talked about extensively as targets in the league's hopes of returning to a 12-team league.
Hey, Big 12. Why not do something that might soothe hurt feelings over West Virginia, build some bridges for the future and help your teams?
Establish a Big 12-Big East football challenge.
I'm talking about borrowing an idea from college basketball where this conference-vs.-conference format has taken off. The Big 12 and the Pac-10 did it for several seasons, and the matchups were great. Kansas-UCLA. OSU-Stanford. Texas A&M-Washington. It's always fun to see the power conferences go head to head.
It would be just as grand in football.
What's more, it would trump up some sorry looking nonconference slates. Nonconference schedules have become increasingly dull. It's not just a Big 12 problem. It's a college football problem. Marquee games are the exception, not the rule.
Yes, there are always some good games on the docket. Among Big 12 teams, OU is playing Notre Dame and Kansas State is playing Miami next fall. But there are way more games with the excitement of Texas-New Mexico and Baylor-Sam Houston State.
Wake me up when conference play starts.
I mean, it's difficult to blame lower-half teams for scheduling nonconference rumdums. Those squads have a hard time winning conference games, so if they want to have any chance of going to a bowl, they have to pad their records with nonconference wins.
But Texas having a nonconference schedule consisting of Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss? OSU playing Louisiana-Lafayette, Arizona and a cupcake to be named later? TCU playing Grambling, Virginia and SMU?
Bad nonconference games are becoming an epidemic in college football. They'd have already killed the first few weeks of the season if not for teams like LSU, Oregon, Boise State and Virginia Tech being willing to regularly play tough games in the nonconference.
A partnership between the Big 12 and Big East would help spice up the nonconference slate. That's good for the fans. That's great for the Big 12's television partners, which must be dying for more good nonconference games to fill their broadcast windows.
You wouldn't have to have every Big 12 team play a Big East team in just one season. The matchups could spread over a couple years.
But who wouldn't mind seeing Texas-Pitt or OSU-Cincinnati or Texas Tech-Rutgers or OU-Boise State or TCU-Louisville?
Sure beats Texas Tech-Northwestern Louisiana or Kansas-South Dakota State.
Right now, conferences are at odds over all this realignment. There is no sense of camaraderie among the leaders. There is no spirit of cooperation.
Why not take the lead in trying to change that, Big 12?
It'd be good for college sports, but best of all, those improved nonconference schedules would be grand for the schools, the broadcasters and most importantly the fans.
Consider it a little payback for keeping us waiting on this year's schedule.