From Dying to Thriving, The Return of the Big 12

It wasn’t long ago that it looked like the Big 12 would go the way of the SWC. The Pac-10 was trying to poach top talent and the SEC/Big Ten would take other worthy schools. But since the Big 12 was able to retain talent and grow, they are developing into a powerhouse heading into the next decade.

The Dark Days of the Early 2010’s

Rumors of conference realignment were starting to grow and it wasn’t a good sight for the Big 12. Colorado decided they were headed to the Pac-10 and Nebraska announced they were leaving for the Big Ten. Texas had a meeting with Pac-10 officials to make a larger conference.

Texas was in talks of creating the Pac-16 with the then Pac-10. Taking most of the talent out of the Big 12 and essentially collapsing the conference. Nebraska and Colorado were already out, Missouri was leaving for the SEC in 2012 along with Texas A&M, it all hinged on Texas.

If Texas and the Pac-10 had pulled the trigger, the conference would soon add Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M. But this could have all been a bigger move by Texas to get what they wanted.

Texas decided to stay put and landed a deal for the Longhorn Network with ESPN. Texas couldn’t have their own network in the Pac-10 but they were granted permission in hope of keeping the conference together. This is what was enough to push A&M over the edge and finalized their decision to move to the SEC. A&M wanted to get out of big brothers shadow, they made the jump to the SEC and not much has changed for them.

The Longhorn Network played a major factor in saving the Big 12

With Texas back in, most other Texas schools agreed to stay with the changing conference. Commissioner Dan Beebe promising that the TV deals would dramatically increase revenue, the conference would live to see another day. Now the conference needed to replace the talent they lost.

Big 12 Expansion

A&M, Missouri, Colorado and Nebraska were all gone so the Big 12 added West Virginia and TCU in 2011.

At the time of these two joining the Big 12, both were on incredible runs through college football. TCU had multiple 10+ win seasons over the last half decade to their name. West Virginia was also coming out of the most prolific stretch in program history. Between 2002-2011, The Mountaineers went 95-33.

Some of the talent was replaced and the conference wasn’t folding but they were still looked at as at the bottom of the Power Five. That was until the College Football Playoff came around.

CFP Era

The playoff started in 2014 and had a Big 12 team get snubbed early. Newcomer TCU was sitting at number three and finished the season 11-1. It looked like they would finally get their shot after years of being left out in the Mountain West Conference. But the rankings came out and TCU fell to sixth. Thankfully, Oklahoma has returned to prominence.

Oklahoma has been to the playoff three times and are still looking for that first win. Even with their post season struggles, Oklahoma is one of the best teams every year and have multiple Heisman winners to prove it. Texas has also made major strides to join the National conversation. Under Tom Herman, Texas wrapped up a 10 win season and beat Georgia in a NY6 bowl game.

Mayfield started a run of Heisman Winners at Oklahoma

As those two have risen their level of play, so has the rest of the Big 12. Only three teams finished under .500 in 2018 and four teams had 8+wins. The Big 12 also holds a record of 87-69 over other Power Five opponents since 2012. Even more important is the growing financial standing of the Big 12.

In 2018, The Big 12 gave each team 34.3 million each and saw their total revenue increase by 18%. This is more per team than the Pac-12 and the ACC. While they are still far off from the SEC(43.7 million) and the Big Ten(54 million) it shows how far they have come.

To start the decade, it looked like the Pac-12 would take over the Big 12 and collapse the conference. Now headed into 2019 and the Pac-12 is struggling to keep up as they fall from their once lofty spot.

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