Big 12 football: Should the league remain at eight?
With Missouri’s departure from the Big 12 seeming more and more likely every day, the conference is scrambling on a variety of fronts.
1. Maintaining a semblance of stability, keeping the remaining schools together, which frankly has been the mission for about 15 months and has been a miserable failure.
2. Identify the desired number of teams in the league: 10 or 12. The bigger you get, the more watered-down the conference, since prime candidates, either from a geography, marketability or competitive standpoint, are in short supply. But the smaller you stay, the more impression that the league is withering. So it’s an interest debate. I say 12, but they’ve got to decide.
3. Go after the expansion targets, a list which includes all the schools we’ve bantered about for several weeks. Brigham Young, TCU, Louisville, West Virginia, Boise State, Cincinnati, Air Force, Houston. We can go on.
But here’s an idea that I’m not endorsing but I do think the Big 12 should at least think about. No expansion. Staying at eight. An eight-team conference is not desirable, but who’s to say it isn’t the best of a bunch of bad options? If the Big 12 isn’t viable long-term — and who among us think it is? — then why go through the motions? Just do what the Big 12 did last summer; milk what’s left of the conference for as much as you can, and let each member jump at the first sign of a safety net.
Now, if you stay at eight, it’s a clear sign that the league is not long for this world. Which is probably the best reason not to do it. But if you know you’re going to die anyway, why invite more people to the death watch?
Here are the ramifications of an eight-team league consisting of OU, OSU, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas.
* TV contract: Financially, it would be a money-maker. Like I’ve said, if you’ve got Oklahoma and Texas, you’ve got a conference. You don’t have a ton of inventory, but the inventory you have is solid. During conference play, half the league games would feature the Sooners or the Longhorns, except when they’re playing each other, and OU-Texas is a huge TV attraction. The contract would not be what the Big 12 is accustomed to, but you’re slicing the pie just eight ways.
* Scheduling: The eight-team league works only if OU, OSU, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas State spruce up their non-conference schedules. No more talk from coaches talking about how tough they already have it. Look at it this way. OU, Texas, OSU and Tech in an eight-team league would be playing the same schedule they have in 2011, except no Texas A&M or Missouri.
So what is the argument for not adding non-conference games against opponents of that caliber? I know scheduling is not easy. But call every school in America. Offer to play home-and-home with Brigham Young (which is dying on the vine for games), and Boise State, and Wisconsin, and Illinois, and North Carolina, and Stanford, and Arizona State, and on down the line.
Pick two teams similar in status to A&M and Missouri. Let’s say Cal-Berkeley and Michigan State. If the Sooners or Longhorns or Cowboys added that duo to their schedule, the networks would be intrigued. The package wouldn’t be as attractive as if Mizzou and A&M still were in the conference, but if every prominent Big 12 (Eight) school added such a duo, it would go a long way to make up for the weakened inventory.
The schools on the lower end of the food chain — Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor — could beef up their schedules a little and add another cupcake. That would give them a better chance at the magic six wins and a bowl berth.
* Bowls: I don’t think the Big 12′s bowl tie-ins would be affected much by a retreat to eight schools. The Fiesta Bowl would still be wholeheartedly on board. So would the Cotton Bowl. And the Alamo Bowl. The Insight Bowl is owned by the Fiesta Bowl, and the Fiesta and Big 12 are fast friends, so the Insight would be fine. The Holiday Bowl might lose interest, since Missouri and A&M are exactly the kind of programs that usually end up in San Diego. But next are the Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl (I promise, I’ll call it the Houston Bowl from now on) and the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. Would they bolt a Big Eight? Not Houston. Maybe the Pinstripe but maybe not.
So the bowl landscape would be this: lose two solid programs, lose one middle bowl and maybe a bottom bowl. That doesn’t sound like it hurts the Big 12′s post-season standing. Just go down the line. Especially in a year when two Big 12 teams make the BCS? Go down the line using this year’s rankings. OU to the Big Bowl. OSU to the Fiesta. Texas to the Cotton. Baylor to the Alamo. Kansas State to the Insight. Texas Tech to the Houston. Iowa State to the Pinstripe, if the Cyclones could make it.
* National championship: This is a major problem. With no conference title game, and a weakened conference schedule, the chances of the Big 12 (Eight) titlist making it to the Big Bowl are much less. If an OU or a Texas goes unbeaten, chances are good they’ll finish in the BCS top two, though not for certain. If an OU or Texas finishes 11-1, it’s less likely they would sneak past an 11-1 team from one of the stronger conferences.
* Basketball: Hoops would be fine. Big 12 basketball is very resilient. Kansas, Texas, the Bedlam rivals, K-State, Iowa State. You’ve got good basketball schools. You’d play a 14-game schedule, I suppose, but the league could experiment. Heck, play a 21-game league schedule. Three times each. Maybe return to a preseason tournament. Wouldn’t that beef up interest? Play a Big 12 Holiday Tournament, either in Kansas City or Oklahoma City. Or promote challenge games. Play the game I’ve always wanted — Bedlam in December in Oklahoma City, in a non-conference game. Play KU-Kansas State in Wichita or Kansas City. I don’t know. Have some fun.
* Recruiting: I don’t think it’s a big deal. I think high school players are about the least-educated on the status of conferences. They know brands. SEC. Big Ten. Big 12. Whether those brands are legit, they don’t know. Now, over the course of a decade or two, sure, the Big 12 brand would diminish.
But isn’t that the point? An eight-team league isn’t about flourishing. It’s about surviving until this league figures out what it wants. Should it disband? Should its schools with options jump ship at the first sign of stability? Or should it tread water until the picture is more clear?
Message Sent Successfully
Be Sure to Check Out Our Top Headlines
Back to share with a friend form.
Add More Recipients