ARLINGTON, Texas â€” Sooners and Cornhuskers sharing the gridiron. Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit sharing the broadcast booth.
Jerry Jones' palace. A glittering trophy and Fiesta Bowl trip awaiting the winner. A championship decided on the field, just like everyone always wants in this eccentric sport.
Tell me again why Saturday night is the last Big 12 championship game. Why, when Nebraska and Colorado flee the league next summer, the Big 12 is prepared to go backward. Why Big 12 athletic directors are shortsighted enough to be giddy about extra cash at the expense of conference prestige.
The Big 12 title game, which has elevated the league in the eyes of the American sports fan, will be missed. Sorely missed. The conference has no idea what a void it's about to create.
Starting with Bob Stoops.
â€œIt doesn't seem to hurt a lot of teams this year or in some other years, that haven't had championship games,â€ Stoops said. â€œThe Pac-10 hasn't had one yet, nor has the Big Ten. And they seem to have been in the championship hunt through the years.â€
Trouble is, a title game hasn't kept the Big 12 from the championship hunt. Saturday will be just the second Big 12 championship game since 2002 without national-title implications, and the Big 12 placed a team in the Big Bowl in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009. That's seven of the last 10 years. Only once (Missouri 2007) has the Big 12 title game cost the league a national championship spot.
The Southeastern Conference, the only other league with a title game throughout the 2000s, has produced five national-title game participants. The Big Ten three and the Pac-10 two.
The Big 12 wants to mess with that track record?
And as for the Big Ten and Pac-10, they've surrendered. They expanded so they could stage a title game. At least the Big Ten went after a big-time addition in Nebraska; the Pac-10 wanted a game so badly, it added Utah and Colorado.
The SEC and the Big 12 set a standard, an expectation of a showdown game that determines a champion. The other leagues on their level craved that status and took steps to catch up.
Next December, when college football's other big boys â€” SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10 â€” are staging title games, the Big 12 will be playing regular-season games it hopes will draw a piece of the spotlight.
Maybe Bedlam. Maybe OU-A&M. OSU-Texas. Something like that. Hasn't been determined.
That's a Roulette wheel. A championship game guarantees intrigue, even if it lacks Oklahoma-Nebraska luster.
The Big 12 resorting to 10 schools is a sign of weakness. A sign that this conference is sliding back to its roots of Big Eight and Southwest Conference vulnerability.
That's why expansion is necessary.
Big 12 athletic directors don't see it that way. They love the idea of television networks offering the same money, to be split 10 ways instead of 12. Love the idea of a bigger piece of the pie.
Here's how crazy greed can make you. One Big 12 AD told me he wasn't even sure he'd endorse Arkansas coming over to the Big 12, that the Razorbacks might not be worth it on the television contract.
The Big 12 has to be proactive. Has to find a way to get back to 12 schools.
The Big 12 can't add just anyone. TCU makes no economic sense, which is why the Horned Frogs are Big Eastbound.
But Brigham Young brings TV clout and a quality program. Add BYU.
Take a run at Notre Dame. The Big 12 is not as rigid as the Big Ten; the Big 12 has shown it allows its members some marketing independence. Notre Dame's not likely to say yes, but asking doesn't hurt.
Maybe you look at a Louisville. Or even further East, to West Virginia. Look outside the box. Find a solution.
Don't mess with success. Don't temper the excitement in a sport that too often tiptoes around legitimate games.
Keep the Big 12 Championship.
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 AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.