So the Big 12 did what the Big 12 does best: Nada.
Which could all be waved away as harmless and cute and all, except for the fact that this particular round of nothing had the gravitational pull of a small planet. Oklahoma president David Boren, who apparently never found an athletic issue he couldn’t take both sides on simultaneously, rang the alarm for exploring expansion, then hedged, then rang the alarm again, even though a Sports Illustrated report called any expansion talk out as one gigantic bluff to try to secure more money out of broadcast partners ESPN and Fox.
But instead of cancelling the auditions for the wannabes who’d formed a line outside the league office, they went ahead with the dog-and-pony show anyway. The Big 12 hired two consulting firms to lay out the hypotheticals. Half the American Athletic Conference paraded in front of league administrators in a sort of absurd, conservatoire version of the Miss Universe pageant. And for what?
It all turned out to be a colossal waste of time for the contestants — many of them the musical-chair losers in the football demise of the old Big East, stuck in FBS purgatory, too large and urban for the MAC and too provincial to appeal to TV execs. The likes of Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, South Florida, Memphis and BYU remain huddled together outside, noses pressed against the window, wondering what the warmth of a Power 5 television contract looks like in the cold, dark months of winter to come.
Although, really, nobody walked away clean. After the Big 12 presidents punted on expansion, the governor of Texas dropped the hammer. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Boren tried to spin stand-pat as a victory for solidarity and the status quo, such as it is. But no votes were apparently taken on extending the conference’s grant-of-right-deals beyond 2024-’25, either, which led to the second major bullet point: The league might’ve made an effective money grab in the short term … but after 2025, it might well be every Bevo for themselves.
When the Big 12 hit an iceberg six years ago, a third of the league — including Nebraska — said ‘to hell with it’ and jumped ship. Oklahoma was reportedly flirting with the Pac-12., while Texas was on the Big Ten’s radar.
Say a realigned map with four 16-team super conferences becomes the new normal, perhaps as soon as the next eight years. Could you picture a Big Ten West in which Sooners-Huskers sharing a football field in late November is an honest-to-goodness thing again? Or Kansas and Michigan State and Indiana all vying for the same conference men’s basketball championship before turning their collective attentions toward chasing a national one?
What do you think? Does someone — or a few someones from the Big 12 — fit the Big Ten mold in the future? If you could pick a maximum of two, which two would you take?
Vote early, vote often, kids. Results coming Sunday in the latest edition of The Wrap.