Big 12 athletic directors met this week to plot strategy. Take that as a sign of progress.
I used to think those guys got together and wistfully recalled the old days. Misty water-colored memories in the corners of their mind.
At least now the Big 12 knows there is only one lane in big-time college sports. The fast lane. Get in gear or lie in fear of being roadkill.
So while the talk floated into football scheduling and bowl alignments and even interleague alliances, under the promising leadership of new commissioner Bob Bowlsby, conference realignment never strayed far from the Big 12 scope.
Big 12 meetings in this era don't just revolve around enhancing the conference. Saving the conference is the issue, too. Fortifying the conference, for when the next realignment bubble bursts.
And burst it will. The Big Ten seems intent on fulfilling some kind of manifest destiny; no school east of the Mississippi is off limits. The Big Ten recently added Maryland and Rutgers; you don't add football lightweights like that to stop at 14 schools. Those additions have to be part of a bigger colonization plan.
According to documents obtained by the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State president Gordon Gee in December told his university's athletic council that the Big Ten has been talking about expanding past its soon-to-be 14 members and that he “believes there is movement towards three or four super conferences that are made up of 16-20 teams.”
If such prophecy comes to pass, the Big 12 wants to be a buyer, not a seller, in the super conference business. The Big 12 has been mostly flat-footed in the realignment business of the past three years.
Of course, the Big 12 not only liked things the way they were, the Big 12 likes things the way they are. The consensus is to remain at 10 schools.
“We feel very good about our current lot in life,” Bowlsby said Tuesday at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas. “We like our revenue distribution, we like our competition, we like our composition. We feel very good about where we are.
“Beyond that, we'd be unwise to be oblivious to all that is going on around us. We need to be constantly vigilant. I think in coming out of these meetings we're prepared very well for that vigilance.”
The Big 12 knows where to set its eyes. A couple of East Coast courtrooms, and the Big Ten boardroom in Chicago.
Maryland and the Atlantic Coast Conference are engaged in legal battles over the Terrapins' $53 million exit fee to leave the league. If Maryland is held to the $53 million cost, it's a lot less like any other ACC school would jump.
But if there's a crack in the door, the Big Ten seems ready to pounce. Seeking to widen the geographic footprint for its Big Ten Network and to keep adding prestigious academic schools, the league soon could be courting some combination of North Carolina, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Duke.
If the ACC lost two or four more schools to the Big Ten, you don't think Clemson and Florida State would have hot feet? That's what the Las Colinas meetings were about.
The Big 12 is going all Boy Scout on us. Being prepared. It's a nice change.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.