By Allen Kellogg
The Big 12, formerly one of the premier college athletic conferences, passed away last night while attending a conference meeting in Dallas. The Big 12 was just 23 years old. Friends, family, and A&M fans gathered in Dealey Plaza last night to pay respects and or make snide comments. The beloved conference finally lost a long battle with conference realignment and the stress at the late night meeting caused a fatal collapse. There will be memorial service held at Cowboy Stadium at 5 P.M. on Sunday, May 21. Tickets for the service start at $120 and will be streamed on the Longhorn Network.
The conference was conceived in February of 1994 as a merger between the Big 8 conference and several members of the Southwest Conference. The conference began competition in August 1996. The Big 12 was regarded as one of the strongest athletic conferences in nation until 2010 when an erosion of trust over unequal revenue sharing caused a split between several of the member schools. The University of Texas made a decision to capitalize on the lack of unity and partnered with ESPN to form the Longhorn Network. Dejected that no TV network wanted to pay their school millions of dollars to cover their university’s sports teams, Nebraska left the conference and joined the Big 10. Soon after, Colorado departed from the Big 12 finding refuge in the Pac-10 which expanded to 12 teams.
Bitter from a lack of respect and angered by the futility of their athletic programs, Texas A&M decided to leave the conference to and move over to the SEC where the Aggies could be a perennial 4th place team in the West division. Missouri soon followed. Down to just eight teams the conference added consistent Cinderella, TCU, and the only football program in the Big East, West Virginia. Despite the conferences being a solid number 3 in revenue after the 14 team SEC and Big 10, the focus has been on the Big 12’s pitiful performance in the 2017 NFL draft and the embarrassment of the failed conference realignment of 2016. The Big 12 mulled expansion last summer and interviewed several G5 programs. However, the conference chose not to expand after the Big 12 was paid off by the same media conglomerates who insisted the conference had to expand to survive. The conference chose to remain at 10 members. The 2017 NFL draft was a unmitigated disaster for the conference. The Big 12 only had one player, Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes, go in the 1st round and only had 14 players taken in the NFL draft, fewer than the G5 AAC.
With its future bleak, the Big 12 met in Dallas on Thursday, May 11 to come up with an action plan to pull the conference back from the brink. However, the event became heated when the conference agreed to a name change, but could not reach consensus on what the new name should be. The two names up for debate were Texas, Oklahoma, & Friends or Oklahoma, Texas, & Company. Texas and Oklahoma could not reach a compromise and the shock of this decision caused the conference to collapse. Despite Iowa State providing CPR immediately, the conference did not recover and was pronounced dead at 9:17 P.M.
“It is with great sadness that I must announce the passing of the Big 12,” Oklahoma President David Boren said. “No one wanted this conference to prosper more than myself and I want to apologize to the Big 8 for being unable to save her offspring. I promise that Oklahoma will be just fine. I have met with T. Boone Pickens and as soon as his nine figure check clears we will proud to announce a new Oklahoma only conference with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulsa, and a few other schools yet to be named as members.”
Texas President, Gregory Fenves, said Texas would begin operating as an independent and that the Longhorn Network is expecting to transition into a digital platform in addition to continue using the standard cable model.
Baylor announced that it will be joining the Western Athletic Conference(WAC) in most sports but will become a member of the Sun Belt for football. Baylor officials said that they would require the WAC to change their name to the Western Athletic Conference Organization or (WACO) before joining. School officials said they have no doubt an agreement will be reached between Baylor and the WAC. Other former members of the Big 12 are still scrambling to try and find another conference that will take them.
“I left the meeting for a moment to call the University of Houston and let them know they would be allowed to join the Big 12 starting in 2018,” former Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, said. “I came back to the meeting room, but all the doors were all locked, all the lights were turned off, and all I could hear was Iowa State, Kansas State, and TCU sobbing. I just wish someone had told me the conference was dead.”