John Klein: Big 12 makes big rebound over course of a year
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, June 03, 2012
6/03/12 at 7:11 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Big 12 rebounds well over course of a year
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State appeared to be fleeing for the Pac-12 last summer.
The Big 12 was done. Texas was negotiating a few final details that would put four teams (OU, OSU, Texas and Texas Tech) into a 16-team Pac-12.
A year later, the Pac-12 is still the Pac-12 and the Big 12 has never been stronger.
Not since the Big 12 was formed has there been this much enthusiasm for the future of the league.
While the other superconferences are expanding, reaching out of their geographical areas to grab whatever is available, the Big 12 has compacted and stabilized.
The Big 12 is once again going in a unique direction, apparently more than happy to stay at a smaller, more lucrative 10 members.
This could change. It is, after all, a college athletic conference. There are few things more unstable these days.
Yet, just as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have hinted for months, the Big 12 is staying at 10 teams.
DeLoss Dodds, Texas athletic director, made it pretty clear last week at the Big 12 meetings that the Longhorns are pretty happy at 10.
OU and OSU officials have been saying all spring they prefer 10.
So, for now, it would come as a surprise if the Big 12 changed directions and suddenly started adding teams.
The recently concluded Big 12 meetings seemed to confirm that the Big 12 believes 10 is a good number. It allows for a full round-robin schedule in football and basketball.
Championship coaches in those sports, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Kansas' Bill Self, have been vocal in support of a full round-robin schedule.
In addition to scheduling, the 10-member model means more money, close to $20 million, for each of the members.
Plus, depending on what football national championship playoff model is adopted, the 10-team league means no conference championship game to potentially knock a worthy Big 12 team out of the championship playoff.
Depending on the model, and how it is structured, the Big 12 could change its mind about a championship football game.
However, for right now, 10 is good.
It is pretty obvious the Big 12 members liked last year's conference with 10 teams.
So, replacing Texas A&M and Missouri with TCU and West Virginia is an easy fix to the latest conference realignment.
Nothing has to change. The only real difference for the Big 12 will be travel to and from West Virginia. Of course, that is a far bigger issue for the Mountaineers, who will have to travel halfway across the country for half of their football and basketball schedules.
That will be a hardship and much more challenging financially for West Virginia than any of the other nine members.
The other nine members are in a loose I-35 corridor stretching from Iowa to south Texas.
Despite the reduction in numbers, from 12 teams two years ago, the value of the Big 12 continues to soar.
Much of that is the television draw of the league.
However, it also has something to do with the league's success.
Despite having just 10 teams, the Big 12 has enjoyed a super year.
Oklahoma State, Big 12 football champ, was third in the BCS final standings, barely missing out on the championship game and was a major reason the BCS debate raged until a new formula (some sort of four-team playoff) will be adopted later this summer.
Kansas, the Big 12 men's basketball champ, reached the national championship game.
Baylor, the Big 12 women's basketball champ, went undefeated and won the national championship.
Baylor had the Heisman Trophy winner (Robert Griffin III) and women's basketball national player of the year (Brittney Griner), and Kansas's Thomas Robinson was a finalist for men's national player of the year.
OSU's Gundy was the national football coach of the year.
Big 12 teams continue to compete, and in some cases appear favored, for national championships in the spring sports.
The Sooners and Cowboys are now comfortably secure in what may be the second most-desired conference college athletics.
What a difference a year makes.