Big 12: Six Feet Under?
12:01 AM EDT on June 7, 2010
Is the Big 12 six feet under?
It seems that the other power conferences believe this might be the case. Rumors continue to fly that the SEC, Big 10, and now the Pac-10 are sniffing around the league's schools like the Big 12 were a dog in heat. Among the rumors are:
Among the major conferences, the Big 12 is definitely the baby. Basically a merger of the old Big 8 and the Southwest Conference, the league is just 15 years old. Meanwhile the other big guys are chomping at the bit to eliminate some of the competition for BCS/March Madness riches and strenghten themselves as the NCAA goliath. Could the Big 12, which is certainly a consideration for, if not, the elite conference in collegiate sports, really unravel so quickly?
I don't know and I don't care. My interest is just in what drama all of these NCAA politics are going to spawn. Just think of these scenarios:
OU and Texas defect to the SEC
This seems like a longshot to happen. Right now, those two schools dominate the Big 12, a powerful football conference as it stands, and are therefore an automatic contender for the BCS Mythical National Championship game every year (depending on which team wins the Red River Shootout).
On the other hand, imagine the football competition this would provide during the regular season. Gone would be the yearly cupcake Baylor games, and no one would ever be able to accuse the Sooners of having a weak schedule again since they would start playing teams like Alabama/Florida/Arkansas/Tennessee in conference and would likely have yearly non-conference dates against Oklahoma State and Nebraska.
Of course, that leaves the ten teams remaining in the Big 12. Losing their two biggest draws in the biggest sport certainly knocks them down a peg to ACC or Big East level. At this point, we're talking about Nebraska, A&M, and OSU as the best football programs and there is parity between the North and South divisions. To remain relevant, the league probably invites two of the best mid-major programs (my guesses: Boise State and TCU) to fill it out and make the name stay relevant. Unless...
The Big 12 completely disbands
This happens if OU/Texas leave for either the SEC or Pac-10 and the other four schools invited to the pride of the West Coast accept that invite. (I'm assuming the invitations aren't limited to all six teams being a package deal.) In this scenario, Nebraska and Missouri definitely join the Big 10 (now thirteen teams large) leaving Baylor, Iowa State, and the Kansas schools out in the cold.
In football, this makes the SEC unstoppable and the Pac 10 benefits by becoming the indisputable #2. The latter will still be USC and a bunch of other teams, but their regional appeal suddenly extends into the heartland.
For basketball, though, it really shakes things up. Kansas is a free agent, and they are not going accept becoming a mid-major in that sport, even if the rest of their athletic department isn't really coveted by a major conference. Does KU go the Notre Dame route and become an independent in one sport, or do they use their basketball leverage to get an invite to the Big 10? Even better, perhaps they eschew geography and add to the Big East basketball powerhouse.
Nebraska and Missouri leave for the Big 10
If this scenario takes place, the Big XII survives. The only problem is that the gap between the North and South widens even more. To make the Big 12 championship worth a damn, they would have to split the divisions to be the OU and Texas divisions and let those two athletic directors pick the rest of the division like captains for a pick up basketball team.
Losing the top two football schools from their lower division, however, would open up the possibility of inviting a couple of mid majors (again, I think Boise State and TCU would be the best targets) could retain the conference's schedule strength.
The Big 12 Withstands the Threat
Of all the scenarios, this is probably the most likely, and it is probably the worst case scenario for the rest of the NCAA. In response to their mega conference brethren behaving like Jim Traber around an overturned Johnsville brat truck, the Big 12 will declare war. Retaining Oklahoma and Texas will buoy them to make plays at the best of every other conference. You think Dan Beebe won't try to snag Michigan, Ohio State, USC, and Arkansas? Odds are they poach someone.
Whatever the case, this will be fun to watch.