Will The Big 12 Go Back To 12?

With Utah's invitation to join the Pac 10 now official, it appears as though the dust is finally settling. The once feared 'super conference' idea appears to have been averted, for now. But is conference realignment really over?

Now that the Big 12 has taken a step back from what many thought was its imminent demise, is the conference really going to remain at 10 teams? The simple answer is probably not.

As a conference in collegiate athletics, there really is no such thing as plateauing or stagnation. The reason for that: in athletics you are either improving or you are falling behind. Your competitors are constantly looking for ways to improve, and if you aren't, you are being left behind.

This is the dilemma facing the Big 12. On Monday Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was able to stop college football Armageddon, for now. Now is the time to decide whether the Big 12 remains a college football power conference or watches itself be passed by the Big 10 and Pac 10.

There is no doubt Texas and Oklahoma are two of college football's top 10 programs currently. But the idea that a conference can be just as good after losing two teams and a championship game is naive at best. In life, you are either passing or you are being passed.

I know most, if not all, of the Big 12's football head coaches don't like a conference championship game, but there is a fact that can't be ignored: over the last seven football seasons, of the 14 available slots in the BCS Title Game, 10 of those slots have been filled by teams that just played in their conferences title game. That is a staggering 71 percent. The reality is those conference title games are the difference maker between two teams with identical records.

If you don't think a conference championship game matters, just ask USC. They have been left out of the BCS title game on multiple occasions even though they had an identical record to at least one or both of the teams competing in that game. After the 2008 season USC got to sit at home and watch Florida battle Oklahoma for the BCS title even though it could easily be argued that USC was just as good and possibly better than the other two teams playing in that game.

Now is the time for the Big 12 to act. Its conferences extinction has been averted. Now the Big 12 needs to make a very bold move, and send a clear message that it is here to stay. Otherwise, the next time expansion comes up, the Big 12 will be fighting for its life once again.

It is time for the Big 12 to be proactive rather than reactive. If it truly wants that big TV contract, it is my opinion that it will need to add two more very good programs. Fortunately for the Big 12, the Pac 10 – because of nothing more than religious bigotry – didn't even take a run at easily the best non-AQ school in the country.

Let's be honest, no one within the Big 12 is shedding a tear over the loss of Colorado. Nebraska however was a crushing blow. The Big 12 was not expecting to lose Nebraska, but it is more than okay with losing Colorado. There are times in life where you can get better simply through shedding excess baggage. But the loss of Nebraska has to be addressed.

Whether the Big 12 will stay at 10 teams or add two more schools, I am sure most have an opinion. What is clear is that losing Nebraska was a huge loss. Now that the Big 12 has stabilized and regrouped, don't be surprised if it makes a move of its own.

There are excellent expansion candidates out there. But the next step is up to Dan Beebe and the Big 12 schools. Now would be an excellent time to make a big splash. If I were a betting man, I know where my money would be.

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