Texas A&M remains in the Big 12 Conference, with all the commitment of a conscripted soldier. Desertion didn't work, so now the Aggies will resort to protocol to obtain their freedom. As any good military school should.
And why wouldn't that be sooner rather than later? The Big 12 has all the stability of the Soviet Union, circa 1988. Tom Osborne suddenly seems very wise. It's not a matter of if the league will crumble. It's a matter of when.
Nine real members left. One of which, Missouri, begged to be whisked away last summer. A few more of which – notably OU and OSU – have to be asking, how much more of this can we take?
The Big 12 bravely motors on, saying it will replace A&M.
Such enlightenment is a year late, of course. The Big 12 grew downright giddy last summer at the dollars promised by the networks, despite the loss of Nebraska and Colorado. Same television money as always, only split 10 ways instead of 12, with bonanzas on the way.
Fool's gold. Short-term balm for deep wounds. The Big 12 needed new blood last summer to stabilize a league much too reliant on a precious few schools. Needed to retain divisional play and the championship game that goes with it, so that the message was strong. Business as usual.
Instead, the message delivered was, we'll milk whatever we can out of what's left of this thing.
Even now, the Big 12 brass declares allegiance to a 10-team conference. Still milking.
And I don't blame Dan Beebe. Commissioners do what they're told to do, and the athletic directors I talked to were dead set against expansion last summer. One even said Arkansas wouldn't bring enough financial cachet to warrant trying to steal the Razorbacks from the SEC.
But if the Big 12 is dead set on the milk theory, only one option exists to give this conference a long shelf life.
BYU is a bonafide football school. Lavell Edwards Stadium seats 64,000, and the Cougars fill them. BYU has a national following, thanks to the Mormon Church, and even has its own network. BYUtv is on a bunch of cable systems (Cox included), which is more than you can say for the Longhorn Network.
The Cougars also play good football. They beat the Sooners on a neutral field just two Septembers ago.
BYU has been held back by geography and religion.
BYU toiled in the Mountain West Conference (or its predecessors) from 1938 until this year, when the frustrated Cougars declared independence.
The Pac-10 is not interested in BYU because of Mormon conservatism. The Big Eight/Big 12 was a long way away – it's 1,118 miles from Oklahoma City to Provo, Utah.
But the world is a smaller place when TCU can be in the Big East, when A&M and South Carolina can share a conference, when the Oklahoma schools were invited to the Pac-10.
BYU would enhance the Big 12's television package and its gridiron reputation. BYU doesn't compete on Sundays in any sports, so the non-football sports would have some issues, but the Big 12 really has no other choice. Brigham Young is the best option.
But who knows if BYU would even accept? The Cougars need to get into a major conference, if for no other reason than access to the BCS.
In the last five years, TCU, Cincinnati, Boise State and Hawaii have played in a BCS bowl. But Brigham Young's biggest bowl game ever was the 1997 Cotton, against Kansas State.
Still, BYU has no desire to jump aboard a sinking ship. The Big 12 would have to do some fast talking to convince the Cougars to come. Would have to assure the Cougars that Oklahoma and Texas are in for the long haul. Texas is. The Sooners would like to be, but like I said, their patience is not an everlasting supply.
Heck, the Big 12 should get real serious. Get Brigham Young, Air Force and TCU (provided the Frogs can get out of their 2012 move to the Big East). Air Force has a certain television charm, and TCU just won the Rose Bowl. I know it's not Notre Dame and Arkansas, but we're living in the world as it is, not the world we wish was.
Instead, there's talk of the Big 12 just replacing A&M with Houston. Whatever happened to Beebe's 2010 declaration that the Big 12 was uninterested in expanding with the geographic footprint?
Nothing against the Cougars, who have been known to play a mean game of football, but they've won Conference USA once in the last 14 years. Adding Houston is taking a major step back. Toward the old Southwest Conference.
Sure, six million people live in Greater Houston. And all of them watch the Longhorns, Aggies and NFL Texans. Houston U. plays in 32,000-seat Robertson Stadium. Earlier this year, the Cougars announced they had raised $40 million toward the $75 million-$80 million needed to start construction on a $120-million, 40,000-seat stadium. Which is nice.
TCU is about to finish an $115-million renovation of Amon Carter Stadium, and the Horned Frogs just won the Rose Bowl. If you want Houston for what it might be, just get TCU for what it already is.
Of course, putting Houston in the Big 12 would marginally help the Sooners and Cowboys and Missouri and Texas Tech recruit Greater Houston. One more game in the backyard of a bunch of big-time recruits.
Small-term gains at long-term costs. The Big 12 has done it before.
This time, the Big 12 needs to make decisions with vision. Brigham Young might be all that can keep this league alive.