The Big 12 Blueprint For Success

The playoff is now set, and the Big 12 is out. Justifiably so. The Big 12 was top-heavy this year. If OU had pulled it out against Oklahoma State, things might be different. But they didn’t. So here they are, no conference championship, watching the semi-finals this year. What should be done?

The Big 12 has a lot of options. In football they have Texas and Oklahoma. In basketball they have Kansas. They are still a strong conference in both major sports. They know that. So let me lay it out for you to put an end to the speculation. Here is what the Big 12 is going to try and do and what they will end up actually doing.

First, in the meeting today with the commissioner and all the athletic directors of the conference, they are going to come away with Plan A: get Notre Dame to join the conference. This is a long shot. They tried before. But the Big 12 is unique in that schools can maintain their own media rights. This is how the Longhorn Network works for Texas. Notre Dame has a deal with NBC for their games. They can keep that deal in the Big 12. Not so in every other conference.

If they can get Notre Dame on board to join, they will invite them and BYU who needs no convincing. BYU has a deal with ESPN and their own BYUTV network, so they will either stay independent or join the only conference that lets them keep their nice deal- the Big 12. They want in and it’s no secret. But here’s the deal. BYU only gets in if Notre Dame is on board. That’s the only way it will work.

My guess? Notre Dame is fine where they are. They want to stay independent for as long as they can. They have a good setup with the ACC and I imagine they don’t want to go through the hassle of joining the Big 12 if it isn’t absolutely necessary.

That leaves Plan B. A conference championship game is high priority for the Big 12 right now. That requires 12 teams or a waiver from the NCAA. I doubt that waiver is coming, but Plan B will be to apply for it (again). Once they don’t get it, time for Plan C, aptly named for Plan Cincinnati.

That’s right. The Bearcats will join the Big 12 as full members. They are a big school, good athletics, good facilities, great recruiting area, good media market and they aren’t too far from West Virginia, helping ease that island effect. Cincy is in, mark my words. It makes all the sense in the world. They were successful in the Big East, seeing the BCS multiple times. They are on a good trajectory now. They will be No. 11 for the Big 12. That leaves one more.

And we’re back to BYU. Except not as a full member. BYU is another island, one you don’t want to create for the non-football sports. Plus BYU is happily in the WCC as it is, a conference perfectly fine with the no Sunday games rule. I don’t think BYU wants to mess that up. I don’t think the Big 12 wants to figure out another new member.

But BYU is independent in football. They can do whatever they darn well please with football. Which is why the Big 12 will invite BYU to participate as a football-only member of the Big 12. And BYU will join as soon as possible. They have the problem of having already scheduled what is essentially 12 non-conference games per year. Most teams have their conference figure out 8 or 9 games for them and they fill in the other 3 or 4. Not BYU as an independent. That’s a lot of reconfiguring to do and leaves some Pac-12 and MWC teams especially out with little time to do anything about it. So this might not happen until the 2016 season to be honest. There’s always the sticky point of getting Cincy out of the American where an extra year wouldn’t hurt either.

How would football work? They would create what I call the Zipper Divisions, east and west. You can’t do North and South for a couple reasons. All of the Texas schools cannot be in one division. Every school in the conference will want, heck, need, to play at least one game a year in the state of Texas. It’s a must. Also, the travel for the 4 Texas schools and 2 Oklahoma schools would be minimal compared to the travel from Utah to West Virginia. Also the programs would be a little stacked in favor of the South.

East and West makes more sense. You form the divisions like a zipper, right down the middle with extreme eastern teams (Cincy and West Virginia) going one way and the extreme western team (BYU) going the other. Here are your divisions:

Oklahoma State
Kansas State
Iowa State

West Virginia
Texas Tech

You play all 5 teams in your division. You then get 1 permanent cross-divisional rival. That would be easy to figure out: BYU and TCU, Texas and Texas Tech, Baylor and West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas, Iowa State and Cincinnati. Done. Now you get 3 of the remaining 5 from the other division each year. They rotate between all the teams. Each year there are only 2 teams you don’t play then. This is the same way the Pac-12 does it with 12 teams by the way. At the end of the season you have the teams in each division with the best conference records play at Jerry’s World for the conference championship.

As far as non-conference play goes, here’s a simple solution for you. The Big 12 has twelve teams. The Pac-12 has twelve teams. Make an agreement in place where in the first week or two of each season, all 12 teams from both conferences play each other. BYU and Utah already have a deep rooted rivalry. Make it a permanent non-conference game. The others can rotate if you want. Whatever you want to do is fine. But if the Big 12 and Pac-12 go at it in the non-conference early each season, that would be great for both conferences. Then each school has 2 non-conference games to schedule, an FCS patsy and a MWC/CUSA or whatever team.

I don’t know if the Pac-12 rivalry would happen. But the 12 team Big 12 is happening. It’s either Notre Dame and BYU as full members or Cincy as a full member with BYU in football only. And here is why.

If Texas and Oklahoma were the two teams shut out this year, they would be demanding 12 teams or they would bolt. They are watching this and thinking “Hmm…maybe the Pac-12 doesn’t look so bad after all.” And that’s only if the SEC isn’t calling them right now. If the Big 12 does nothing, they run the risk of getting picked apart. Kansas and Kansas State would probably land in the Big Ten safely. Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State would likely head to the Pac-12. The rest? Tough luck. Join the American.

No one wants that to happen. Which is why they are eventually going to figure out what I’ve already told you just now. Twelve teams is going to happen. And it is going to happen soon. You read it here first folks.