The Big 12 began fracturing in summer 2010. That’s when Nebraska announced it was headed to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12. A year later, Texas A&M and Missouri bolted, too, for the SEC.
Truth is, the Big 12 has been wobbly ever since. The additions of West Virginia and TCU, plus the signing of the grant of rights in blood, stabilized the league to some degree but has not restored its reputation.
Since that summer of 2010, no Big 12 football has reached the national title game. The Big 12 has gone 3-2 in BCS bowls, but twice the conference has been saddled with Fiesta Bowl matchups against the likes of Connecticut and Central Florida, which hardly did much for the league’s prestige. The Big 12 is 0-4 in Cotton Bowls since the fracture. The highlights, I suppose, are OSU’s Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford and Andrew Luck, and OU’s Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama.
Since that summer of 2010, Big 12 basketball has not thrived. Kansas has done its usual heavy lifting for the conference, but that’s about it. In 2014, the Big 12 went 6-7 in the NCAA Tournament, with no team in the Elite Eight. In 2013, the Big 12 went 3-5 in the NCAAs. In 2012, the Big 12 went 10-6 in the NCAAs; Kansas made the NCAA title game and Baylor also made the Elite Eight. In 2011, the Big 12 went 5-5 and Kansas made the Elite Eight.
Since that summer of 2010, Big 12 women’s basketball has been top-heavy. Baylor and not much else. Baylor and Texas A&M made the 2011 regional final, against each other, which was both curse and blessing. But otherwise, Baylor dominant.
Which brings us to June 2014 and the NCAA baseball tournament. Sixteen teams are left. Four are from the Big 12: OSU, Texas, TCU and Texas Tech. All will host Super Regionals, which is the round of 16. Only TCU and OSU were seeded to make the Supers; only TCU was seeded to host. But OSU will host Cal-Irvine, TCU will host Pepperdine, Tech will host the College of Charleston and Texas will host Houston.
I know it’s not football, and it’s not even basketball, but this has a chance to be the Big 12’s finest hour. Not any particular school’s finest hour. Making the College World Series does not equate to a Sooner victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl or Kansas reaching the Final Four. But those Big 12 celebrations are coat-tail in nature. That’s one school, one team, getting it done.
If three Big 12 teams could somehow make the College World Series? That would be a monumental conference achievement.
Especially since the Big 12 has only occasionally been the baseball juggernaut we thought it might could be. The Big 12 in 2005 placed three teams in the College World Series – Texas, Baylor and Nebraska. Nebraska and Texas both made it in 2002. A&M and Texas both made it in 2011. Texas also made it in 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2009. OU made it in 2010. OSU made the College World Series in 1999.
So that’s a solid showing. Thirteen Big 12 teams have made the CWS in the last 15 years. Not bad. But not great.
But here comes a revamped a 10-team Big 12 suddenly growing baseball fangs. Nebraska and A&M, which combined for four College World Series appearances in the 2000s, are gone. Of the Big 12′s nine baseball-playing schools, 44 percent are in Super Regionals. A majority of Super Regional home teams advance to the CWS, so anything less than three Big 12 teams advancing will be a disappointment.