What a summer it has been for the Big 12. From the impending departures of Nebraska and Colorado to the league remaining intact, the conference athletic directors and Commissioner Dan Beebe were just glad to get to the annual Big 12 Media Days in Irving, Texas. There will be still be twelve teams competing this upcoming school year, but that number will change to ten with the 2011 football schedule. Despite the contraction of two schools, many at the Big 12’s annual three-day media blitz lauded the effort of the commissioner to maintain a power conference, and there was definitely a feeling that a burden had been lifted :
Each AD had been under enormous pressure while deciding what was best for his school. Now each was sitting with nine other guys who’d been under the same stress, a reminder that they were in this together.
“We all looked at each other,” Kansas AD Lew Perkins said, “and were glad we were there.”
The University of Texas was the key player in the constant expansion/defection talks that dominated the spring and early summer. The Longhorns’ rumored deal with the Pac-10 would have destroyed the league as a power conference, but (for now) the Big 12 will remain true to its region and compete at the BCS level. For the time being, Beebe says the conference is not looking at expanding back to twelve schools and cited the success of the Pac-10 and Big Ten (ironically, both will go to twelve schools in 2011) in competing nationally without a Title Game:
Beebe joked that he and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney had agreed to trade conference names, then noted the irony that the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference were seen as pioneers in the 1990s when 12-team conferences and championship games came into vogue while the Pac-10 and Big Ten stood firm in their 10-team traditions.
“Now we’re going to 10 and doing it (scheduling) the old fashioned way,” Beebe said. “Maybe that’s it, the Old Fashioned Conference.”
While we appreciate the commissioner’s optimism, it’s hard to see the ‘Big 12’ staying at the top of the conference food chain if they do not go back to twelve schools and a Championship Game. Houston and TCU seem to be natural fits, and their inclusion would allow for an all-Texas division and for Oklahoma schools to move a strengthened North Division. Under that alignment, the league would be able to promote the type of state/regional rivalries that have made the SEC so wanted by television networks.
As far as on-the-field topics, Oklahoma and Nebraska were picked to win their respective divisions. Additionally, Beebe said there was no plan to move the Red River Rivalry from its annual October date (in accordance with the Texas State Fair) to December to compensate for the future absence of a Big 12 Title Game.
There are many issues to for the Big 12 (or perhaps a future new name?) to work out in the next couple of years. But for now, most of the school leaders and fan bases in the league are just glad that they still have a power conference in the short term.