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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby arrives to speak to reporters after the first day of the conference's meeting Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
AP Photo/LM Otero

Big 12 presidents take vow of public uniformity

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There may be plenty of heated debates and conversations behind closed doors, but when it comes to showing the public their stance, the leaders of the Big 12 have agreed to stand together for the greater good of the Big 12. On Friday, Big 12 presidents and chancellors agreed to defer all comments to commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

The show of uniformity in refraining from comment appears to put Oklahoma president David Boren on notice. Boren had made headlines with his public remarks regarding the stability of the Big 12 by suggesting the conference was psychologically disadvantaged in the power conference landscape, speaking out in favor of expansion and lamenting the missed opportunity to add Louisville to the conference. Boren’s comments have either been echoed by fellow Big 12 leaders or disputed by others. Boren speaking out gave credence to the idea the Big 12 really is not standing on solid ground as a conference, because if Oklahoma is not happy with the state of the Big 12, then there are issues that will continue to be problematic. For the Big 12 to be stable, it likely needs Oklahoma and Texas to be happy. Now, no matter what Boren really thinks, he is essentially muzzled on the big topics for the Big 12.

After two days of meetings, the Big 12 essentially comes out of their meetings silent and without any drastic changes in the works. Expansion was discussed during the recent meetings, but no specific candidates were discussed during the board of directors meeting. Bowlsby did suggest there may not be an ideal number for the conference, which is currently operating with 10 members.

So for now, as has been the case for the last few years, there is no movement on the expansion front for the Big 12, which may be disheartening to fans of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and any other number of programs dreaming and wishing for an invite to the power conference.

Cold Turkey: Big 12 bumps Texas-TCU form Thanksgiving to Black Friday

A Texas fan dressed up as a Thanksgiving turkey shows disappointment over the performance of the Longhorns during the first half of an NCAA college football game against TCU, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
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The Big 12 announced a pair of adjustments to its 2016 conference schedule this morning. The more notable of the two changes is the move of Texas and TCU’s Thanksgiving night game to the next day, Black Friday. The game scheduled to be played in Austin on Thanksgiving night will now be played the following day as part of a request of television partners ESPN and FOX.

This will mark the second straight season TCU has played on Black Friday. Last season the Horned Frogs defeated Baylor in one of the sloppier weather games of the year. Playing on Thanksgiving had been a long-standing tradition for the Longhorns. Texas squared off with rival Texas A&M 69 times before the Aggies departed the conference for the SEC. Without the Aggies to play on Thanksgiving, Texas has kept that tradition going with games against either Texas Tech or TCU. However, the addition of a third game in primetime to the NFL schedule ahs created a bit of a stir when it comes to television partners. Knowing the NFL will grab the large majority of the football viewers on Thanksgiving night, the Big 12 now avoids being in the NFL’s dark, ominous shadow. Time will tell if this is a one-year deal, and hopefully it is. Some of us actually prefer watching college football on Thursday night.*

Texas Tech’s home game against Kansas has actually been moved up a couple of days to Thursday, September 29. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, October 1. Now it will get a chance to shine on primetime on either ESPN or FOX Sports 1. The Big 12’s television dates have not been announced, so it remains to be seen if this game will be aired on ESPN or FS1.

*Full disclosure: NBC will begin airing Thursday night NFL games this season, so this statement is voided in the event NBC is airing the Thanksgiving night NFL game because the almighty peacock would not look favorably upon me if I stood by that statement!

Big 12 ADs meet but make no progress on championship game, expansion or TV network

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses attendees to Big 12 Conference Football Media Days Monday, July 20, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Big 12 may one day bring its conference championship back to the conference schedule, but any hope of reviving the game in 2016 appears to be fading quickly. A meeting of Big 12 athletic directors on Thursday in Irving, Texas yielded no movement toward implementing a conference championship for the upcoming college football season.

Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12, confirmed ADs from the conference were presented with information regarding the impact a conference championship game has on sending a Big 12 champion to the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 was represented this past season by Oklahoma, an outright conference champion in regular season play, but the conference was left out of the four-team playoff field in the 2014 season despite co-champions Baylor and TCU having identical 11-1 records. Big Ten champion Ohio State wiggled past the Big 12 co-champs for the fourth and final spot in the inaugural playoff. No votes regarding the conference championship game were held by Big 12 ADs, which was expected to be the case.

The Big 12 ADs also discussed other topics that seem to follow the Big 12 wherever it goes; expansion and a Big 12 network. Like the championship game, no votes were held regarding expansion or a conference-branded sports network similar to networks operated by the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12. But they most certainly were discussed. Bowlsby suggested the discussions were “high-level discussions.”

On Friday the presidents and chancellors from the 10 Big 12 members will meet in Irving, during which time they will be expected to review these same topics and more.

The topic of expansion in the Big 12 has continued since the departures of Nebraska (Big Ten, Colorado (Pac-12), Texas A&M and Missouri (SEC) were followed by the additions of West Virginia and TCU. Stuck on 10 members, the Big 12 lost the ability to host a conference championship game under the NCAA rules regarding championship games (conferences must have 12 teams or more to hold a conference title game). The NCAA recently allowed conferences the ability to run a conference championship game without 12 members, but the once believed to be easy choice for the Big 12 has seemed to lose support and momentum from within, and now the conference appears to have a diving line on the subject. On the one hand, a conference championship game hypothetically gives the Big 12 champion one last good, quality matchup to make a final playoff push, which may have benefitted Baylor or TCU in 2014. On the other, Oklahoma just proved it is possible to make the playoff without a championship game. A Big 12 championship game would provide more potential revenue for the conference, which is a nice luxury to have, but it carries a risk of potentially knocking a playoff entrant out of the discussion with a loss on the final weekend. The Big 12 has seen its championship game ruin national title dreams before, so it knows the pros and cons of the debate.

The complications of a Big 12 network also open the door for a stalemate, as it would likely come only if Texas abandoned The Longhorn Network. The Longhorn Network has been a polarizing issue in the Big 12 since its launch, and that is not about to change. Texas has every right to continue to stand by the network if it chooses, which means the rest of the Big 12 is going to have to convince Texas a conference-branded network would be more beneficiaal and valuable to Texas than its own network. For Texas, the ideal situation would be to have both its Longhorn Network and get a cut of a Big 12 network pie. It sounds so simple in theory, but nothing in the Big 12 is ever going to be simple.

Why start now, right?

SEC, Ohio State tops on Carolina, Denver Super Bowl rosters

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29:  Former Tennesse quarterback Peyton Manning and current quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts is honored alongside his former college coach Phillip Fulmer before the start of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on October 29, 2005 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Cam Newton may be hurtling toward history, but the former Auburn quarterback will not be the lone player representing the SEC in next month’s Super Bowl.  In fact, he’s far, far from it.

As you may have heard, Newton’s Carolina Panthers are set to square off with Peyton Manning‘s Denver Broncos in the 50th Super Bowl Feb. 3.  Manning and Newton are two of and FBS-best 30 former SEC players who are on the two teams’ rosters, which includes those on the 53-man, reserved/injured list, practice squad, reserved/suspended by commissioner and reserve/future squad.

The Pac-12 is next with 23, followed by the Big Ten (21) and ACC (17).  The final Power Five conference, the Big 12, has 10, three less than the Mountain West’s 13.  The AAC, with eight, is the only Group of Five league to come close to double digits.  The MAC, meanwhile, is the only conference to be shutout, while all of the other divisions in the NCAA combined for 18 players.

Nearly every SEC team is represented in this year’s big game, the lone exception being Vanderbilt.  Of the dozen schools in the Pac-12, only Arizona and Washington State are missing.  Both the ACC and Big Ten have 11 of their 14 teams in the game, the lone exceptions being Clemson, Louisville and Virginia Tech for the former and Illinois, Minnesota and Rutgers for the latter.

One of those B1G schools that’s in, Nebraska, has had at least one player on a Super Bowl roster for 23 straight years, the longest active streak for any FBS program.

Ohio State easily outdistances individual schools with seven, three more than the four each for Auburn, Georgia Tech, Oregon State and Tennessee.  Alabama, Arizona State, Colorado State, Georgia, Nevada, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC and Utah.

A total of 20 schools have two players each, including Coastal Carolina, the only non-FBS program in the group.  The other 19 includes Arkansas, Boise State, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, North Carolina, San Diego State, South Carolina, Stanford, Troy, Tulane, Washington and Wisconsin.

OU’s David Boren ‘very frustrated’ Big 12 ‘let Louisville get away’

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 10: President of the University of Oklahoma David Boren and Head Coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners talk before the game against the Baylor Bears November 10, 2012 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Baylor 42-34. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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The Big 12’s resident rabble-rouser is at it again.

In the immediate aftermath of the NCAA’s decision earlier this week to allow conferences with fewer than 12 teams to stage championship games, Oklahoma president David Boren called for, among other things, the addition of two teams to the Big 12. In an interview with John Hoover of Tulsa World, Boren continued hammering on his expansion agenda, telling Hoover that the conference should immediately, along with folding the Longhorn Network and other third-tier media properties into a league network and implementing a title game, expand the league to 12 teams.

School presidents and chancellors will meet early next month, and presumably Boren will call on “leadership to begin working on implementing all three immediately.” Boren also allowed that “[t]here are three or four other [Big 12] schools, in particular, that … feel as strongly as I do about,” among other things, expanding the league.

As for potential expansion additions, several have been churned out by the rumor mill over the years. BYU is one that’s been mentioned consistently — and the Mormon school would jump at the opportunity — as has UCF and its huge and ever-growing student body. Houston would seem like a likely candidate, although the Texas schools in the conference, especially the flagship university in the state, would push back against such an addition. Boise State, Cincinnati and Memphis have been bandied about as possibilities as well.

While Boren didn’t go into specifics as to who he thought the Big 12 should add this time around, he did lament the one that got away the last time the league expanded.  From Hoover’s piece (which is exceptional and should be read in its entirety HERE):

“You know, I was for adding Louisville (when the Big 12 instead added West Virginia and TCU in 2012),” he said. “I obviously did not prevail, and they have now gone into another conference and they’re not available now. But they’d have been a good fit.

“… Boy, I was very frustrated, for example, that we let Louisville get away and we let other schools get away. We had opportunities at one time several years ago before all these schools gave up their rights, their legal rights and their financial rights, we had a real opportunity, I think back then, to even snag some of the bigger-name programs in the country, and we let the opportunity pass us by — in spite of some of us expressing our frustrations.”

Louisville, of course, landed in the ACC after some very powerful and influential individuals in Boren’s conference snubbed their noses at the “basketball” school. Getting the U of L now is seemingly next to impossible, what with the grant-of-rights in place in the ACC that makes it, in theory, economically unfeasible for a school to leave. The same grant-of-rights holds true for the Big Ten and Pac-12, making any member of those conferences off-limits. And the SEC, well, nobody’s leaving that ATM of their own volition.

That would leave the Big 12 picking from the Group of Five, a field that while it’s more than 60 in actual number it is in reality less than 10 in potentially qualified candidates.

If the Big 12 either decides against expansion or can’t find two suitable partners, what would the future hold for Oklahoma and its sports programs? Boren, who on his watch has seen OU pursued by the Big Ten and Pac-12, did not rule out leaving for another conference.

“I think if — if — we can get the Big 12 on the right track, if this comprehensive plan could be adopted, then I would rather stay in the Big 12,” Boren told Hoover during the interview. “I think that would be to our advantage. But it’s something that we really need to have happen. But we just need to wait and see what develops. Certainly, my first choice, if we can get the right things done in the Big 12, the right steps taken, especially these three, then I think we ought to stay in the Big 12. If it just doesn’t happen, then I try to think long-term.”

One thing is certain: If there remains strident opposition to expansion and folding the LHN into a conference network… if the Big 12 remains at 12 teams… if, grant-of-rights be damned, Oklahoma follows through with an implied threat to leave… if all of that were to happen, the age of four 16-team super-conferences would be upon us — and the Big 12 would be no more.  While that may be a ways down the road, Boren is pushing for something, anything to happen in the here and now so that he can begin thinking long-term for his sports programs in general and his football team specifically.  One way or another, this Big 12 “thing” is coming to a head — sooner, so to speak, than many may have expected.