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Cowboys Ride For Free Big 12 Roundtable

We did a roundtable to discuss what our team thinks the future of the Big 12 could be or what it should be, in some of our opinions.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This past week, we released an article stating the Big 12 would be wise to consider a team like, if not, Arkansas. The geography, history and essentially everything except for the money aspect makes sense, but it'll probably never happen. So we started to wonder, "what is going to happen to the Big 12?"

To be completely honest, no one knows the answer to that question. It's as up in the air as anything, I'm not completely sure Bob Bowlsby knows the answer, but that's what makes this sort of talk interesting. Financially, the Big 12 could probably make it by fine, but will it? We got together in our email thread and discussed the possibility of expansion, death and why it will or won't ever happen.

Gerald Tracy - Alright guys, what happens to the Big 12? Keep in mind the recent reports of OU trying to leave the conference in 2010 and the fact that OSU could likely never get into the Big Ten.

Robert Whetsell - Sooners and Cowboys are a package deal. I'm a firm believer that championship games in the P5 conferences will feed  an eventual 8 team CFP.

Nick Tyler - I remember when conference realignment was a thing, hearing the same thing Robert just said. I don't see why that would have changed.

Cameron Osburn - Well we all have an idea of what my dream scenario is. That is all it was, though, a dream. Highly doubt Arkansas comes to the Big 12 but one can hope right? Anyways, who is out there that legitimately would come to the Big 12 that would move the needle nationally? BYU isn't a bad addition but it's also just kinda eh. Boise and UCF present travel nightmares, and I'm not sold on either one remaining competitive when playing the big boys week in and week out.

I honestly think the answer is the Big 12 dies sooner rather than later. We have all seen how tied together OU and OSU are, and OU will always be a hot name for a conference looking to make a splash, so OSU should be fine unlike the issues other Big 12 schools might face if it were to collapse. We know the SEC flirted with OU and sent them an invite in 2010 and I'd like to think that is where both schools would end up. Something like OSU, OU, LSU (boy would that be fun having Les in Stillwater every two years), Arkansas, Ole Miss, Miss St, A&M, and Mizzou in the West with Auburn and Bama being reclassified to the East. If getting Arkansas and Nebraska in the Big 12 isn't an option, which it likely isn't, then that is what I'd like to see and something I think is actually a plausible solution. The idea of playing in a PAC 12 East doesn't appeal to me like the SEC does.

Chris Ross - Why is everyone convinced the Big 12 will die?

Cameron Osburn - I'm not necessarily convinced, but I think it's likely. A lot of people say Boren was so outspoken about expansion a few weeks ago because he is trying to set up an excuse for OU to leave if they don't. If OU leaves, OSU leaves, and thus the Big 12 dies. I just don't think the options realistically available for expansion move the needle in terms of credibility. Its been a decade since Texas won the whole thing, John Hoover of the Tulsa World had a great point calling it a conference of "near misses" and I think there is a lot to be said for that. If a Big 12 team doesn't win it all here pretty soon, and especially if the champion gets left out again, I think schools will really start to grow restless and pursue other options.

Josh Poteet - I've been of the thinking that the Big 12 is a dying brand.

No more.

Texas has been bad as of late but Texas is still Texas and will be back within a few years. OU will be back to where they once were most likely as well. Package those two programs with Baylor, OkSt and TCU the Big 12 could be the best conference in football in five years.

That being said, I think that they could expand. In fact, I think they should expand. It would be better for the conference on a national stage. But even if they don't, I am now having a hard time buying the argument that the conference will fall apart soon.

Cory Treece - I'm probably in the minority, but if OU jumps ship and doesn't take OSU with them they might be in trouble. I know OU and OSU have said they would stick together no matter what, but I just get the feeling that if OU were to get an offer from another conference (especially the SEC) but they had to leave OSU behind they would do it in a heartbeat.

OSU needs to be proactive in feeling out interest just in case.

Cameron Osburn - Wanted to address the idea that Texas coming back would suddenly make the Big 12 the premier conference in football. I think Texas will be back, sooner rather than later. However, TCU and Baylor being so good the last few years has partially fueled these down years for UT. Baylor has only been relevant since UT's last title appearance in 09, TCU has been a consistent winner but they were also in a the Mountain West so I didn't put as much stock into it. Texas, no matter how rich the recruiting might be, as a state cant support that many teams being title contenders at the same time. If UT comes back, one will fall. Book it. Look at the state of Florida, FSU rising back to power coincides with UF and Miami being down. UCLA returning to the national scene has been at the same time USC as been down by their standards. It's highly unlikely UT, Baylor and TCU would all be legitimate threats at the same time, and if it does happen it would be an anomaly that wouldn't last more than a season or two before one fell. Just my 2 cents on it.

Robert Whetsell - I'm a bigger believer that the biggest cause for the rise of the likes of TCU, Baylor, OSU, and others, along with the fall of some of the major programs like UT, OU, USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, Michigan, etc, is the proliferation of TV, as well as social media.

As recently as the 90's, if you were an athlete that wanted an opportunity to cash a check, along with living a pretty nice life for 2-4 years, you needed to attend one of the major programs. They owned the exposure.

That is now gone. Almost every Division I football game is televised, they are ALL covered on social media, and the related money has made a lot of places comfortable destinations (see OSU).  It's also allowed the "2nd tier" programs to attract and keep decent coaches. So what happens is that the big names no longer own the access to the next level, and they no longer own all the best facilities or all the best coaches.

If I'm an aspiring athlete, it becomes the "Would you rather be a small fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a small pond?" (see Chris Carson, Tyreek Hill). Once that "exposure" playing field got leveled, then it became about recruiting and coaching. Sales pitch, development, game planning. If a major program gets that, then they still have an Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State...but if they don't, they quickly begin to struggle just like the rest of the 2nd tier programs...see UT and OU... Are 4 and 5 star recruits still heading to major programs...yes. But that's the tip of the iceberg for talent, and expansion of video coverage has also changed recruiting so that a program can better identify potential talent. Second tier programs are used mining 2 & 3 star players and developing them, and you can find diamonds in the rough who can play right away (see James Washington).

I'm 100 percent convinced this shuffling doesn't take place without the ability for us to watch virtually any football game we want, whenever we want.

The Big 12 whiffed mightily by not naming Baylor as the champ. I think they were afraid that, since TCU was ranked a couple spots higher, that Baylor might be too far out to get picked, so they were trying to hang their hats on TCU. Big mistake, as the committee wanted nothing to do with that controversy. After all, the CFP was supposed to get away from the annual arguments over the BCS, right?

I'm still convinced that if the Big 12 had produced an outright champ, they would have been in the playoff.

Cameron Osburn Yeah the "one true champion" is garbage. The answer should be an 8 team playoff, as it always has been. In any reasonably fair CFP every P5 conference should have their champion getting automatic bid. Then obviously the other 3 become at large bids in which you simply pick best remaining teams. It really is pretty simple, and frankly I'm hoping for more controversy this year as another champion will be left out hopefully causing enough outrage to get us to 8. But that's for another day.

Chris Ross - Don't listen to anyone telling you the Big 12 is on it's deathbed, is unstable, can't compete, or any other mumbo jumbo. It's simply not true. It's not that hard to see either. All you have to do is ignore the fevered fan and media speculation and challenge the narrative. Ask yourself two questions. Why is the Big 12 supposedly dying or disadvantaged? And should a Big 12 team want to leave the conference (they don't), who's taking them?

When you boil down any excuse conjured up for the conference's impending doom, it basically comes down to just one reason; 'because they have to'. I don't know about you all, but that's not much of a reason for me.
I wrote about it at length here: No, The Big 12 Doesn't Need to Expand & It's Not Going To Die

I'm not going to repeat everything, but the long and short of it is there's five basic reasons out there on why the Big 12 'has' to expand: The lack of a championship game, the Big 12 is weak with just 10 teams, because super conferences, and money. 
None of those excuses are any good. I don't want to rewrite the whole article above, so for more in-depth answers please check it out. I'll try and sum it up as best as possible though.

All Tom Osborne really said is that the 13th game, or conference championship game, factors into the playoff committee's decision when looking at strength of schedule. That's not saying it's the only factor that matters. In fact, the Big 12's round-robin schedule is a much, much bigger factor. For example, Florida State won the ACC, and made the playoff. So the conference championship mattered right? Wrong. The 'Noles made the playoff because they were the undefeated defending national champion. Every single Big 12 team ranked higher than FSU in strength of schedule following the ACC championship game. Every single one.
As you all have just pointed out, the Big 12 isn't as weak as people want you to think. The conference very nearly put in two teams, and before Wisconsin gutted themselves and bled out at the altar of Urban Meyer, everyone was wondering if the Big Ten could stay competitive in today's college football landscape. Don't be surprised if we're reminded of that real quick. Remember, this time last year we were talking about OU winning a national title after they manhandled Alabama. WE HAVE TO LEARN TO STOP OVERREACTING.
OU and Texas are down, but half of the conference has won at least a share of the Big 12 crown over the last five years.

That's not weakness. That's strength. In the early 2000's it was all about who could step up and help OU and Texas, and now it's about OU and Texas reclaiming their throne. Some people will always see the glass half empty. 
This is quickly becoming TL;DR, so I'll skip ahead to money since that's the biggest factor. 
The SEC paid out $31 million to each member. Every single member gets the same share. The Big Ten works the same way, and last week they reported that they paid $32 million to each member.
Compare that with the Big 12. The conference paid out $27 million to each school. Well short of the Big Ten and SEC. However, schools in the conference have third tier rights. Something the Big Ten and SEC don't have because of they conference networks.Basically it's already factored into their total given. The Big 12 separates it out. It was reported that OU made at least $6.5 million in third tier rights. So their conference payout is at least a total of $33.5 million. Topping all Big Ten and SEC schools.
The big dog's of the conference should love this structure. Yes, it could be flat across the board, where everyone gets a piece of Texas' $15 million (how much they made in third tier rights) for LHN (which would then be a Big 12 Network), but OU is hardly the one that should be complaining about it. Heck, even West Virginia made over $6 million in third tier rights.

So why single out OU here. Well, because of Boren's comments and the report that OU was pursuing the Big Ten, they've put the train on the tracks, put it full steam ahead, and just let go of the wheel.
We need to remember that OU's reported interest in the Big Ten was from five years ago. Are we really surprised that when the Big 12 was on the brink of destruction that schools started weighing their options? This seems to be something we've forgotten about more than anything else. A quick Google search shows multiple articles from around the time talking about Mizzou, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma joining the Big Ten and more. 
Let's address it though, I doubt there were any serious talks. It goes against what we already know. We know that there would have to be some serious discussion about what to do with OSU, at least at the state level. OSU doesn't meet the Big Ten's academic standards, and we've heard about the political pressure to keep them together, and both schools seem to prefer it that way as well.
We also know they were much more serious about the Pac-12. To the point that for a brief moment a deal was basically done.

If the Big 12 was truly interested, they would have taken Mizzou. The Tigers had their hand up, were jumping up and down, and yelling 'pick me, pick me!' 
This is a moot point though. Like I said, this happened in 2010. The Big Ten went on to add Maryland and Rutgers in 2011, and super conferences just aren't happening.
Having said all this, I'm not against expansion. We need to recognize there could be real advantages to not expanding before we rush to a decision. Do we really want to give up an advantage to fix an issue that's more perceived, than actual? The Big 12 is holding a pocket kings to everyone's jack/ten off-suit, and we want to let them bluff us off our hand before we've even seen the flop. That's crazy.

The Big 12 brass understands this, so why doesn't Boren? Or, maybe I should say why doesn't he appear to understand? I can't answer that, but is it totally crazy to think a savvy man couldn't use the disconnect between the fans and the Big 12, regardless of how he really felt, as an opportunity to establish some power?

There you have it, we're essentially split. Some think it'll expand, some think it'll die, some just want to see the world burn. How about you?