One by one, the Big 12's football coaches walked onto a stage in the Westin Galleria ballroom July 25 in Dallas, during the league's media bonanza.
Most looked as comfortable as Tom Sawyer in church. Puppets on a podium. Football coaches like the rest of us to be puppets; they're not so crazy about it themselves.
They just stood there, shoulder to shoulder, not daring to grin while they tried to bear it, after a video spouted nonsense about the glories of the new Big 12. Of unity and togetherness and esprit de corps.
“No longer a house divided between North and South,” the video proclaimed, “the Big 12 is one conference with one purpose, with one set of values. Around here ... we believe in battling each other on Saturday and having each other's back come Sunday.”
I swear, you can't make this stuff up.
The presentation didn't even include all 10 coaches. Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville, who last summer was sent to the woodshed for daring to utter that the conference wouldn't last, skipped the dog and pony show. Tuberville was playing golf with boosters; I know nine men who wished they were doing the same. Playing golf with Tech boosters.
Anyway, among the nine was A&M coach Mike Sherman, who missed his calling. Should have been a pro poker player. Sherman stood there stiff and stoic and silent, a Trojan horse, knowing his Aggies were about to spill all over the Brazos, leading a charge to the SEC.
The Big 12 spent $1 million with GSD&M Idea City, an Austin marketing agency, to come up with this campaign, which now has gone splat. The only question is whether the Big 12 pancakes, too.
But if the league survives, it's got to stop trying to snow people. Got to stop trying to convince us that up is down and down is up. That 10 is better than 12, that no championship game somehow assures one true champion, that divisional play created a schism that has healed with the departures of Nebraska and Colorado.
Here's a marketing campaign. Just tell the truth.
Just stand up and tell America, hey, the Big 12 is one heck of a football league.
The Big 12 has three preseason top-10 teams, including the No. 1 Sooners. The Big 12 has the great Longhorn morality play, a program with so many riches it's running off worthy foes, yet somehow still lost at home last year to Iowa State and Baylor. The Big 12 has Missouri. The Big 12 has Bill Snyder, a better coach than Pop Warner or Woodrow Hayes.
Quit snowing and start blowing. Tell America that sure, this league fights like it's Tombstone on a Saturday night. That nobody likes Texas, and nobody would like Oklahoma if all the venom weren't saved for the Longhorns, but so what?
Admit to America that this league isn't for everyone. You've got to be tough to last in the Big 12. Nebraska couldn't hack it. Looks like A&M can't, either. If either one had won a title in a season that began with “2,” maybe none of this exodus happens.
So what if it's only partially true, that the Aggies and Huskers have/had valid reasons to dread The Longhorn Network? It's truer than that unity drivel.
The Big 12 will survive by quit spending $1 million with some Austin agency and start talking straight. In fact, associate commissioner Bob Burda bought me dinner a few weeks ago, so here's a marketing campaign and we'll call it even.
The last decade, OU football is as good as it's ever been, equaling the Bud and Barry eras.
The last six years, Texas football is as good as it's ever been, despite that mysterious 2010 collapse, equaling the Darrell Royal days.
The last five years, Missouri football is as good as it's ever been, equaling the Dan Devine years.
The last five years, OSU football is better than it's ever been.
The last five years, Texas Tech football is better than it's ever been.
All have pristine facilities. All have bright futures. That makes this a golden era for half the league. So what exactly is the problem?
I don't know if the Big 12 will survive. I sort of think it won't. But it certainly could. Especially if we start talking about knocking heads on the football field and stop acting like we're roasting marshmallows while Bob Stoops stands there like a Ken doll.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.