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by Berry Tramel Modified: May 30, 2010 at 1:03 am •  Published: May 30, 2010

Middle America is accustomed to waiting.

Waiting on the coasts and the northern metropolises to elect presidents and promote fashion styles and establish education trends. Then we deal with the fallout.

And now we wait again. Wait on the Big Ten, to decide if it wants to give Nebraska a chance at winning a conference championship in the 21st century or wants to let Missouri be mediocre on the Big Ten's watch instead of the Big 12's. Wait for Notre Dame to come to its senses. Wait for everyone else in collegiate athletics to adjust, then decide what to do.

From the Brazos River to the Iowa cornfields, from the Continental Divide to the mighty Mississippi, the Big 12 waits.

Time to stop waiting. Time to start acting. Time for Big 12 schools to go from reactive to proactive on conference realignment.

That doesn't mean the Big 12 Conference. That means Big 12 schools. The conference is hog-tied. Hog-tied by geography and population. Hog-tied by its lack of television sets. Don't ever forget, the pursuit of TV sets fuels the conference realignment craze.

The Big 12 footprint doesn't have Samungs and Panasonics, even with the massive state of Texas anchoring the league.

Which is why Big 12 schools must face a sobering truth. It's every school for itself.

That's anathema to most of the Big 12. The old Big Eight schools have been together for 50 years; six of those schools have aligned since 1921.

Breaking up is hard to do, and it's the last thing most Big 12 members want. A key Big 12 figure told me this week that most of the schools have a primary goal of keeping the league together and that no one wants to be responsible for leaving behind a brother.

Noble. But naïve. College athletics is survival of the fittest. The Big 12 is not long for this world. Should the league somehow maintain its current members or even its current status, another reconfiguration will come along soon enough. We'll go through this again in 5-10 years, and Big 12 schools again will be waiting for others to decide their fate.

Which is why the Big 12 powerbrokers — Texas' DeLoss Dodds, OU's Joe Castiglione, Kansas' Lew Perkins (if he still has a job), A&M's Bill Byrne — should meet pronto and start working on an exit strategy. Heck, doesn't have to be all athletic directors in the room. Invite Boone Pickens. Invite Texas governor Rick Perry. Invite the ghost of Phog Allen, I don't care.

Get decision-makers together, formulate a plan and fire back a volley at the Big Ten.

And that plan should be a breakup. Expansion is an exciting concept, but it just doesn't work in Middle America. No really good place to go.

The geographic naturals (Arkansas, LSU, Iowa) aren't interested in leaving their cushy slots. The romantic West (New Mexico, Brigham Young) doesn't bring enough TV sets to change the financial outlook.

So we're talking splitsville. And the league is divided into four classes of schools.

1. Texas, alone at the top. Every league in America would make room for the Longhorns.


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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