In light of Oklahoma president David Boren’s comments last week that the Big 12 would be better positioned for the future with 12 members instead of 10. Like the conference itself, the topic of Big 12 realignment simply will not die. And because it’s the end of June and there’s nothing else to talk about, a number of major outlets have offered pieces speculating on who the league might add. Consensus has settled around two of BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida, South Florida and Memphis. As if two schools deemed in the last round of musical chairs as not worthy of sitting at the adult table somehow hold the key to the Big 12’s future.
Rather than make a defensive and, as we’ve seen lately, risky move by adding members, here are five things the league can do that will bolster its profile without changing its roster.
1. Have Texas and Oklahoma start performing like Texas and Oklahoma. As the last few years have shown, the SEC can still remain a power even when Florida is down. The same goes for the Big Ten with Michigan and the Pac-12 with USC. The Big 12, with its smaller roster and limited bench of national powers, needs its brand name programs to behave like brand name programs unlike the rest of the Power Five. (The lone exception among the Power Five would be the ACC and Florida State.) As the first half of this decade has shown, a Big 12 headed by Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU is a competitive, entertaining league, but it needs its flagships to push itself over the hump.
That’s not to say Texas and Oklahoma are the only Big 12 programs carrying enough wattage to earn a top four selection by the College Football Playoff selection committee. That would be foolish, especially after seeing how tantalizingly close the conference came in 2011, and 2012, and 2013, and 2014. What I am saying is that a Big 12 champion Baylor needs an impressive burnt orange carcass on its wall, not the .500 outfit the Longhorns have been the last five years.
2. Adopt my break-if-neccessary Big 12 championship game idea. If you haven’t yet familiarized itself with this idea, fix that now.
3. Perform better in non-conference play. Pop quiz: how many non-conference Top 25 wins did the Big 12 own at the end of the 2014 season? Zero. 2013? One. 2012? One. 2011? Two. 2010? One. The league hasn’t placed a team in a national championship game since Texas’s 2009 team. The conference has lost the last seven Cotton Bowls running. Heck, we may as well call this the Curse of Jerry World, because the Big 12 is a cool 0-for-13 in non-conference games in that building.
4. Perform better in March Madness. Since Kansas’s 2008 national title-winning team, only one Big 12 club has reached the Final Four: the 2012 KU club that lost to Kentucky in the national championship game. Only two Big 12 teams reached the Sweet 16 in 2015, the same number of Big 12 clubs on the wrong end of 3-14 upsets in the opening weekend.
5. Perform better in baseball… and everything else. Since Texas’s 2005 baseball national championship, only one Big 12 club has reached the CWS Finals – the 2009 Texas team that fell to LSU. Meanwhile, the SEC has placed a team in the CWS Finals for seven years running. All told, the Big 12 claimed two national championships in 2014 and 2015 – in women’s gymnastics and men’s swimming and diving.
Rather than extend the Big 12’s brand with a risky land-grab, extend it by playing important games in all sports from Labor Day weekend to late June. That’s what the other four leagues do.
Boren and company, rightfully, want to protect their turf from poachers from the east, west and north. What’s the best way to do that? Leave Doll-Man at home and beat them on the field.