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Big 12 football: Answering college football realignment questions

by Berry Tramel Published: July 27, 2011

I love my readers. Even when we disagree. Most are sharp, even witty, and passionate. They ask great questions. The following email is a great example. Bryan emails every once in awhile, and he sent me an outstanding dispatch Wednesday about conference realignment. Bryan made nine points, either asking a question or making a point, all of which made me think. I responded to each and decided to share them with you.

“As an OU alum, donor and lifetime fan I have to say that I am incredibly disappointed in how this whole conference issue has been handled. I am a traditionalist and really not in favor of any playoff I have seen proposed. So clearly for me to want radical change to college football is saying a lot. But here are some issues that I just don’t understand about the Big 12 Conference.”

1. Needing Texas is overrated. I get they are a big school and I get that they have lots of money and TV allure. However, if Texas is so great for a conference, how is it possible that they have been a part of two failed conferences? The SWC failed and anytime you lose two prestigious schools and add none, that is a failed conference too. There are only two schools that have seen the light, and that is Arkansas and Nebraska. I challenge you to compare Nebraska’s schedule, Arkansas’ schedule with OU’s and tell me what fan base is ripped off.

Texas football coach Mack Brown speaks to reporters at the Big 12 football press conference on Monday, July 25, 2011, in Dallas. (AP Photo/The Daily Texan, Thomas Allison) ORG XMIT: TXADT201
Texas football coach Mack Brown speaks to reporters at the Big 12 football press conference on Monday, July 25, 2011, in Dallas. (AP Photo/The Daily Texan, Thomas Allison) ORG XMIT: TXADT201

“Need” Texas? OK, I’ll agree. Overrated. But it’s best for OU to stay together with Texas. And vice versa. I still think the best avenue for OU is to be in a conference with Texas. OU athletics in general and football in particular has prospered during the Big 12 era. Heck, so have Texas athletics. OU and UT are like Reese’s; two great tastes that go great together. Arkansas’ schedule might be good. But the Razorbacks last January played in the first BCS bowl since 1989. Don’t hold up Arkansas as an example of prospering without Texas.

2. Texas wants to act like an independent but have the benefits of a conference as well. See the Longhorn Network.

No kidding. Which is why Texas isn’t interested in independence.

3. OU is the real loser in all of this. Oklahoma is one of the greatest programs in the history of college football. They have a national following. Yet we are acting like we have to have Texas. My favorite Saturday every year is in the Cotton Bowl vs. Texas. I like Texas to be good so that it makes that game compelling. But I have my limits. Nebraskans are not sore losers. Nebraska is every bit the program if not better than Texas. But Nebraska got tired off the Texas arrogance and for some reason OU has decided we are not as powerful as Nebraska.

OU is not a loser at all. OU has been and remains a big winner. OU wanted its own network, too (heck, so did Nebraska a few years ago), and the only real difference now is all the money and power Texas has reaped from ESPN. There was talk that UT might get $3-5 million a year from its own network, while OU might get $2-3 million. All of a sudden, Texas gets $15 million a year. But the problem is, Texas always had more money than everybody else, so I don’t know what the big deal. The real issue here is ESPN power. Me and a lot of other people have talked about standing up to Texas, but maybe we’ve focused on the wrong thing. It’s time to stand up to ESPN. As for Nebraska being the same quality and caliber of program, sorry. That’s not so. First off, football-wise it’s not true. Nebraska’s football prowess has slipped, and there’s no reason to think it’s cyclical. The Huskers remain a very good program with lots of tradition, but to believe Nebraska is one of those divine-right programs is silly. The same could be thought of Minnesota or Georgia Tech in the 1960s. The Huskers have geographic drawbacks that make it difficult to win. Same with Syracuse and some others we could mention. Meanwhile, even in Texas’ down days, everyone knew the Longhorns would get back on the hooves just by getting close to hiring a solid coach. Which they did.

4. TV viewership is also overrated. If that is such a factor how is it that OU vs. Nebraska was a national game every year. If they played next year it would be a national game too. Fans want to see great programs and I don’t care if they are located in Lincoln, Norman or Green Bay.

TV viewership is underrated. Not overrated. Underrated. It drives the boat. OU-Nebraska is not a national game. It was when they were the powerbrokers of college football. But to say OU-Nebraska is still a national draw is like saying Dallas-San Francisco is an NFL mighty draw. Uh, no. Not anymore.

5. OU needs to act like a free agent and see what its options are. I will bet anything that the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC would all love to have OU. If that is the case, why do we act like we need Texas so bad?

OU has acted like a free agent. It checked out the Pac-10 last year and decided to stick here. The Big Ten has never shown any real interest in Oklahoma. The Sooners want no part of the SEC, and while yes, part of that is the tougher environment, the bigger part of that also is the recruiting culture. I know it seems silly to say a program with the sordid NCAA history of the Sooners is trying to take the high road, but that’s exactly what OU has tried to do during the Joe Castiglione/Bob Stoops/David Boren era. And going to the SEC, where even its commissioner, Mike Slive, is apologizing for the lawless streets he’s trying to patrol, would be very frustrating for the Sooners. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 was a great option last year, when UT, A&M, OSU and Tech were headed West, too. But for OU to go off to the Pac-12 with maybe just one other school would be political and geographic folly. An East Division of the Pac-16 would be great for OU. The Sooners being one of only two schools in the Central Time Zone of a conference would be a disaster. And like I said, OU and Texas have performed great together. Conference alignment as it pertains to the Sooners is easy. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

during Big 12 Media Days, Monday, July 25, 2011, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)
during Big 12 Media Days, Monday, July 25, 2011, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

6. Do you really think that Texas could handle OU and A&M heading to the SEC and trying to recruit against them. NO. Call their bluff saying they will never play us again. It is BS. Texas needs OU and A&M bad.

That’s been established. But OU and A&M need Texas, too, and trying to hurt Texas is a goofy way to think. Don’t do what’s worse for Texas. Do what’s best for Oklahoma. Sure, Texas would be hurt by OU and A&M in the SEC. Guess who else would be hurt? OU and A&M. Our prisons are full of men who thought this way.

7. So bottom line is that this conference as is is simply bad football. OU needs to make sure that they don’t look up one day and have a hard time filling seats because people have decided they are being ripped off watching the likes of Kansas, K-State, Iowa State and Baylor come to town every year. I will say this; I have been going to OU games for 33 years, am a season ticket holder and donor. The only thing keeping me writing checks is OU vs. Texas IN THE COTTON BOWL. If that ever moves and we are still in this conference I will not waste my money.

7. Interesting complaint. As I was reading the first part, I thought, there’s an easy way to improve OU’s home schedule. Play Texas at home. You want a good home schedule, bring the Longhorns to Norman. Then suddenly, you say no. So you want it both ways. You want to improve the home schedule, without moving OU-Texas. That’s asking Joe C. to cut the baby in half. Or maybe you want OU to join the SEC and still play Texas every year in the Cotton Bowl. Hope Stoops isn’t reading this. He might have a coronary just thinking about it. But the general premise is flawed. The Big 12 is bad football? Every league has weaklings. Kentucky is Iowa State. Vanderbilt is Kansas. Mississippi State is Baylor. South Carolina is Kansas State. Arkansas is Missouri. The difference between the SEC and the Big 12 is more teams in the elite level; the difference is not in the teams at the bottom.

8. Why is there no desire to go to the greatest conference in college football? It makes no sense. OU should look at its options. They could head to the SEC with A&M or the Big Ten with Mizzou. Or maybe even the Pac 12. Just look at it from a fan’s perspective. Can you imagine SEC schools or Big Ten schools coming to Norman. Now that is exciting. What is not exciting is Iowa State on Thanksgiving weekend. That is actually hilarious. I am less excited about the Pac-12 because we would be stuck in the old SWC with basically Arizona and Arizona State. Grant you it is better than what we have now. But it is still not great. I have no allegiance to Tech, Baylor or even A&M. But the administration needs to be put on the hot seat as to why they have no interest. Just a simple explanation would help. And don’t give me this academic BS. Vanderbilt does not seem to think the SEC hurts them.

during Big 12 Media Days, Monday, July 25, 2011, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)
during Big 12 Media Days, Monday, July 25, 2011, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

I’ve covered this one pretty well, but go to the Pac-12, and it might not be Iowa State on Thanksgiving weekend. It might be Utah. Does that make you feel like turkey and dressing? Or Colorado, which replaced OU in one Thanksgiving tradition, maybe it could replace Nebraska this time. OU-Iowa State is a scheduling anomaly. It won’t be an annual thing. And if you want a big-time game on Thanksgiving, plus Bedlam in December, bring back the nitro pills for Stoops. Now, if what you’re really saying is you miss the championship game, I’m all in. I think the Big 12 eventually needs to get back to 12 teams, just for status purposes. BYU, Louisville, TCU, Arkansas, Notre Dame. Some can be had, some are pipe dreams. But a title game solves a lot of problems, including OU playing Iowa State on Thanksgiving weekend.

9. And yes I also know that for some reason OSU is a factor in OU’s decision making process. But here is a fact. OSU has no interest outside of this state. Other conferences do not want OSU. So why should OU lower their standards for OSU. We can still play them non conference just like Florida does with Florida State but we don’t have to lower our standards to make them happy. Other programs seem to figure out how to have non-conference rivalries. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Notre Dame vs. USC and Florida vs. Florida State.

In none of those examples were the teams together in a league but one pulled out, except Georgia-Georgia Tech. And the little brother left willingly, when Georgia Tech left the SEC in 1964 and probably has regretted it ever since. But a lot of OU people agree with you. None of them have to deal with the state legislature. You want to try to leave OSU behind, get ready for an appropriations battle that could cripple the university. All so OU could make some sort of macho stand against Texas? Save that for the Cotton Bowl. The other 364 days of the year, you have to think rationally.

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by Berry Tramel
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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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