It's back! Big 12 stability, instability, conference realignment or dissolvement; it's that favorite summer topic of sports radio shows and vacationing or lazy sports columnists. Here is my peace or piece and then I want to move on and talk football.
The first truth is that as a sports talk radio show host I realize that in college markets this is the slow time of year. Spring football is over and and college football and basketball recruiting are going on, but nothing is defining right now. At Oklahoma State, baseball is having a tough year filled with injuries and older players that under performed and younger players, mainly freshmen that are over performing but the eye is on the future with those players. If you are not interested in tennis, softball, or track and field then Oklahoma State is getting barren as the sports year winds down. I like all those sports and follow and will talk them but I don't have as much company. Conference realignment or upheaval is an easier topic and believe me, plenty of talkers for a living, even newspaper sports columnists are living with a steady diet of it. Personally, I think it too easy for a "go to" topic and a disservice to all of you listening and reading. The problem is so many of you go crazy over it.
Here are some truths about conference realignment and the Big 12.
1. ESPN and SECN talker Paul Finebaum doesn't like or respect the Big 12 and when he made his comments about Oklahoma "badly wanting" to leave the Big 12 to a Birmingham radio station he was picking on both a welcomed and easy target in his mind.
2. OU President David Boren jumped right in and gave Finebaum credibility, not because Boren and OU are shopping to leave the league but because Boren is a politician and he can't help himself. It is like he is still in Washington and he loves the sound of his own voice. When he opens his lips something has to come out. My daughter likes to call it "mouth vomit" when you just keep talking and spitting out things that would better be left unsaid. Truth of the matter is, if a school is looking to leave a conference then they likely are being very quiet about it and exploring their options as stealth as possible.
3. I think we've gone far enough down the road to know that those agreements called "Grant-in-Rights" that each school signed to the Big 12, basically each other, calling for the conference to own each school's television rights are holding up. If one school, even OU, tries to bolt and do it alone, well that will cause one heckuva legal battle. The thought here is the document holds up and somebody may leave, but all their TV money is staying put to be split among conference members. I think the "Grant-in-Rights" cements that we will have the Big 12 to prop up, defend, or curse depending on who you are and how you feel, until sometime around 2022-2023.
4. When the Big 12 lost teams in 2011 and 2012 it was because those schools were searching for something. In the case of Nebraska going to the Big Ten in 2011 and Texas A&M going to the SEC in 2012 it was the same thing, both schools wanted to be as far away from Texas as they could get. Texas is overbearing and wants to control everybody. Nebraska isn't as obvious about their desire to do so, although they liked controlling the Big Eight back in the days when they ruled along with Oklahoma. Texas kicked Nebraska back a few seats on the Big 12 bus and the Huskers brass, especially Tom Osborne didn't like it. A&M has always had a thing about Texas and it finally got so bad that the opportunity to play and beat the Longhorns (shutting them up that way) couldn't outweigh the politics on a more regular basis. Texas is good at politics.
Missouri wanted a better identity and really hoped it would be as a superior academic and research university in the Big Ten, but the Big Ten didn't want them and Missouri, speaking of "mouth vomit" had spewed so much of it against the Big 12 and fellow members that they had to make a move and the SEC needed a school to balance the Aggies entrance in the conference. Missouri screwed up, they knew it then, they know it even more now, and their identity is about to become a that of a bottom feeder in a really tough league. They haven't helped themselves with all the drama and issues on their own campus.
Colorado, actually, made the most sense out of all the departing schools. Colorado was on the Big 12's western frontier. The Buffs struggled recruiting Texas and had gone into a football funk to join their basketball struggles. When Colorado is really good in any sport other than skiing the west coast and especially California is where they recruit. The Buffaloes needed a better geographic conference and they got it.
As for the teams that came into the Big 12, they too were looking for something. West Virginia feared being in a conference beginning to break up that was so much more a basketball league. The Mountaineers are like all of us and they love their football program and want to be big time in that sport. The Big East had little assurance of that.
TCU wanted to be in a power conference and was left at the alter initially when Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor came into the Big 12. The opening gave them a chance to escape their vagabond existence in the group of five leagues.
History is important to remember and study when thinking about when, why, and who future conference realignment will start with and who it will impact, both positively and negatively.
5. Finally, Finebaum, the rest of the media, and now Boren are throwing out talk regarding realignment and Big 12 dissolvement. Now, even Boren, talking out of both side of his mouth - another good political trait, says OU really wants the BIg 12 to remain and just get better. OU has most of what they want in the Big 12, schools close by that they have a lot in common with, schools they can beat and get credit for beating, plenty of control in the boardroom - about every time Boren says something then Bob Bowlsby asks "how high." The only thing missing is enough clout to automatically get a team in the College Football Playoff.
6. Remember history, for someone to leave the Big 12 then they have to be looking for something. If the other conferences in the Power 5 ever want to expedite the end of the Big 12 then the schools they need to offer aren't OU, Texas, or Oklahoma State, but instead Kansas State, Iowa State, or Texas Tech. Those schools are the ones with concern. They wonder what the future holds if say OU, Texas, and/or OSU bolted for another conference home. Offer Iowa State of Kansas State long-term conference stability and they would jump. I think they would. Is there another conference out there that wants to speed up the future, I don't know. They all seem to be happy and satisfied right now.
Now, we can spend most of the summer discussing Big 12 stability, David Boren's statements and their cryptic meaning, or we can talk the 2017 football season and how soon defensive end Jordan Brailford might be full speed; which running back, either veteran or freshman, will rotate with Justice Hill, and whether the young corners combined with graduate transfer Adrian Baker from Clemson will be enough to be solid on the back end of the defense. I prefer the real subject over the imagined.