Hey, wasn't the Big 12 supposed to be a conference in trouble? A struggling league? A teetering alliance?
Sure doesn't seem that way any more.
The latest and possibly greatest proof of that came Friday when the Big 12 and the SEC announced they have struck a big-time gridiron deal. Starting in 2014, the regular-season champs from both leagues will meet in a New Year's Day bowl game.
There's a good chance that one or both champions will be involved the four-team playoff that looms on college football's horizon.
But regardless of whether this Big 12-SEC bowl pits champs or runners-up or a combination of the two, this game is great news for the Big 12.
The SEC is the king of college football. Six consecutive national champions. Three of the past five Heisman Trophy winners. TV ratings and revenue streams that dwarf every other conference.
This is a league that gets to decide who gets on its dance card.
And now, the SEC picked the Big 12 for the last dance.
Apparently, acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas didn't spend these past few months playing shuffleboard.
He earned his salary with this deal alone.
“The creation of this game featuring the champions of the Big 12 and SEC will have tremendous resonance in college football,” Neinas said in a statement.
No doubt about that.
This is the kind of deal that signals to the college football world and, by extension, the college sports world that the Big 12 is alive and well. The SEC wouldn't have pulled the trigger on this if the Big 12 was a conference with one foot in the grave. It wouldn't have struck a deal with a dead duck. It wouldn't have allied itself with a league that could become a liability.
This is a time when the power conferences are building alliances. They know change is on the way. If you think that the new four-team playoff is just a pipe dream, check out SEC commissioner Mike Slive's comment from Friday's announcement.
“This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model,” he said in a statement.
The SEC had much to gain from a game setup like this, and its power brokers knew as much. The revenue potential for this bowl is off the charts.
Because it's a stand-alone game, a separate TV deal can be done. As a source told The Sporting News' Matt Hayes, the size of the contract for broadcast rights is “unthinkable.”
And that doesn't even factor in ticket sales or the money that a venue might shell out to host the game.
(Get ready to open that checkbook, Jerry Jones.)
Even through the turmoil of the past couple years, the Big 12 has continued to be an on-field power. It still had teams in the national championship hunt. It always had lots of teams peppering the national rankings.
But you had to wonder about the Big 12's sway off the field.
Was it going to be taken seriously by college football's big wigs?
Only a few months ago the league had been reduced to eight schools and half of those institutions were considering a jump to the Pac-12. But now, those days seem long ago and far away.
TCU and West Virginia have joined the fold. ABC and ESPN have agreed to a nine-year extension of their TV deal with the league, which, when added to the Big 12's cable deal with Fox Sports, will pay each school roughly $20 million a year. Bob Bowlsby has been lured away from Stanford to be the new commissioner.
All of those were great signs for the Big 12 and its long-term viability.
But when the big boys of college football call and want to do business, there is no bigger vote of confidence.
The Big 12 might still have its share of infighting and head butting. It might remain a bit of a pirate ship, but this much is sure — it's no longer a sinking ship.